The US is home to nearly 70 million baby boomers. The number of seniors is increasing, and there are currently not enough senior communities to house this aging population. There is an urgent need for more communities that can accommodate seniors, but these are not the retirement villages of old. This group of retirees has very different ideas about where they want to live during their golden years.
The New Generation of Seniors
As a population group, they are healthier, more active, and living longer than any previous generation of seniors. The traditional senior care environments will no longer cut it. This generation does not want to live in an environment that limits their lifestyle; they are looking for stimulating environments with plenty of opportunities for social interaction that incorporate features that promote wellness. This needs to be balanced against having their own spaces that give them plenty of privacy.
There is an increasing trend for this group to move into these communities when they are younger, but they are looking for communities that can accommodate their changing care needs as they age and require more assistance. Many consider the move into these communities their final move.
A Sense of Home
A significant amount of research has been done on the factors that contribute to an older person settling into a care facility. The number one thing that residents are looking for is a sense of home. When investigated further, three things contribute to this sense of home;. The first two factors were understandable: psychological factors and social factors. The third was a little out of left field: architectural factors.
The accommodation options within these communities must reflect the residents’ independence and incorporate innovative designs and features that enable the residents to maintain their own space as long as possible. The key aspect is that it is the resident’s own space with a bathroom. Shared options, while being cost-effective, are not a popular choice.
Another area where particular attention needs to be paid is the dining options. The days of a single dining room serving three meals a day at certain times are behind us. Today’s seniors are looking for dining options that accommodate their social lifestyles and give them choices. Spaces where coffee or drinks can be served are becoming increasingly important for social seniors.
In practice, this means incorporating technology and design features that promote independence. This means designing communities that offer plenty of natural light, are mobility friendly, and are eco-friendly in design.
Seniors in Knoxville, Tennessee
In 2020, it was reported that the senior population in Knoxville. Tennessee is expected to grow at twice the rate of the general population. There are currently insufficient living facilities to house this population; although at least 40 new senior living environments are proposed, many will be unable to afford these places.
The challenge is building affordable environments for the population at large but in line with the demands of the aging population. Experienced architects who have previously been involved in developing care environments will be key.