Aging in Place(s) — Innovative Designs for Senior Living

Event: Aging in Place(s) — Innovative Designs for Senior Living
Location: Center for Architecture, 01.13.11
Speakers: Robyne Kassen, Assoc. AIA — Principal, Urban Movement Design; Richard Rosen, AIA — Principal, Perkins Eastman Architects
Organizer: AIANY Design for Aging Committee

“New York City is an attractive location where seniors can age in place,” said Richard Rosen, AIA, principal at Perkins Eastman Architects, at the beginning of his presentation of numerous recently-designed senior living communities in both urban and suburban locations throughout the world. All of the projects were designed by architecture firms based in the U.S. Despite the range of facilities, from high-rise to low-rise and large to small, all were designed with the same basic principles in mind — the availability of a wide range of services in close proximity to living quarters, either within the buildings or in the surrounding community. These are the same characteristics that make NYC an age-friendly city.

Most of the communities discussed provided all services and amenities within the complexes, but the urban examples also reached out into the neighborhood. Intergenerational mingling could happen in public, ground level facilities, including cafés, physical fitness centers, health clubs, libraries, retail shops, and common spaces. Some of the buildings seemed to feel more like a hotel than a facility catering to seniors.

Internally, the living units mostly consisted of small “neighborhoods” organized around local communal spaces to encourage residents to participate in an active community while minimizing travel distances. Many of the facilities included areas that encompass a total range of care, from independent and assisted living to skilled nursing requirements. Units were designed compactly, but with consideration for aging in place and the easy maneuvering of wheelchairs. Interestingly, all were designed in a Modern style, which seems to be the preference of an aging Baby Boom Generation. A concern for sustainability was also very evident and an integral element in each design.

A major theme underlying the operation of all these communities is to encourage healthful, active living. A variety of indoor and outdoor spaces are required to accommodate many activities. Landscaping, from small terraces and therapy gardens to large lawns, was often integrated into designs, with many rooms having direct access to outdoor spaces. Groupings of living units function like a miniature city, sometimes with a “main street” of common activities, allowing seniors to continue their lives in a minimally intrusive yet supportive and dignified manner.