Emerging trends in the long-term care industry

The physical therapy gym, Phase 2, at Aspen Valley Hospital

Melyssa Feiler, EDAC, NCIDQ
Senior designer, Gallun Snow

We have all heard it: In 30 years the number of Americans who will need long-term care services is projected to double, and they won’t want to move into a typical “nursing home.” How can we take this data and create long-term care facilities that provide a sense of community, promote new opportunities, encourage healthy living and, above all, focus on the resident?

As the baby boomer generation is moving toward a change in their long-term residence, trend is something that needs to be focused on in a new way. Aging in place is an ideal solution for many. While staying in the home of your choice, minimal design upgrades can be constructed to allow for a safer home environment. Consider open layouts, wider doorways, hardware changes, adding grab bars in bathrooms and replacing tubs with accessible showers, adjusting lighting levels and investing in communication devices. These small changes can be the first steps of many to create a better quality of life within one’s own home. Aging can be an unsettling thought, so focusing on these design changes within your own home can bring peace of mind and help one to age with more freedom.

When aging in place is not an appropriate plan, seniors consider moving into a long-term care facility. Moving out of their neighborhoods and communities is a change that can be immense and can result in feelings of losing control. Many seniors are looking to relocate to urban neighborhoods. This provides the opportunity to take advantage of what cities have to offer regarding the arts and cultural actives, sporting events and dining. Within the long-term care residences, small details such as niches for personal items outside of a senior’s entrance into their rooms and incorporating gathering spaces can help residents connect with each other, as well as form personal relationships with staff. Designing upscale eating establishments encourages families and friends to dine in the facility while making them feel like they are visiting a destination, not a nursing home. Including community rooms, coffee shops, spas and gym facilities can promote a sense of community and wellbeing for guests.

Amenities will be a distinguishing factor in facilities, but the attention to interior finishes and artwork can be just as impactful. The transitions between flooring materials are significant when using a wheelchair or walker. Designers need to study not only the height transitions of flooring, but also the slip resistance and cleanability. Acoustical properties in materials such as ceilings, floors and walls can help with a resident’s ability to have a restful night. Using furnishings meant for the aging with rounded arms on chairs and seat heights that are easier to get in and out of will give them independence to move around freely. People also have an appreciation of the arts and want to feel connected to their neighborhoods. Using artists and imagery from the surrounding area will help guests feel connected in their new living arrangements. These design details are what will help attract today’s aging population.

It’s rare to see someone these days without multiple electronic devices on them. The baby boomer generation is no novice to this technology trend. How can we incorporate technology into the lives of our seniors and the buildings they are living in? Smart home technology is becoming increasingly popular for the entire population. Products like Alexa, Google Home and the Nest are helpful if a fall happens or a loved one needs to be checked on daily. Using these developing technology systems, we are allowing seniors independence, regardless of where they are residing. Other partnerships such as drive-share apps can help facilities with transportation while allowing seniors the liberation of ordering transportation themselves. These systems help seniors feel more in control of their environment.

When designing and building a long-term care facility, consider the target population for whom you are designing. Seniors want to feel in control during this time in their lives. The trend is to provide access to amenities not just within the facility, but in the greater communities, allowing seniors to have some of the freedom they’ve always felt. It’s important to design not just for a health care environment or a hotel, but to use appropriate materials, artwork, amenities and furnishings to design a long-term residence solution fitting the needs of the residents. It is this approach that will enable a healthy, active, happier lifestyle. As we move into a decade where baby boomers represent 29 percent of the population, it is now that we should be considering these trends.

At Gallun Snow, we are currently implementing many of these design trends into our long-term care projects. In 2020, the Blackfoot Skilled Nursing facility located in Blackfoot, Idaho, will open to the community. We are working with TreanorHL and the ISBA to design a space that supports the needs of their population. The facility will include a theater, a gym for activities such as volleyball and basketball, high-end dining space as well as intimate lounge areas including a piano, nourishment areas and cozy fireplaces. The design of the facility takes inspiration from the community and nature surrounding it. Natural stone, colors found in the blue skies and grassy fields, LED lighting and design details such as contemporary molding and decorative glass will set the welcoming aesthetic for the incoming residents.

Featured in the January 2019  issue of Health Care Properties Quarterly

Edited by the Colorado Real Estate Journal staff.