Category Archives: Architecture

How Senior Housing Design is Taking on the Rental Market

Apartment living is the future for more seniors

It used to be that the American dream was to own a home where you raised a family and later became an empty-nester, welcoming grandkids for holidays and backyard gatherings. Downsizing to a smaller home or condo may have been a rite of passage for some, but certainly most would never have considered renting during retirement.

But today, what we think of as a traditional retirement is changing rapidly, and along with it, senior housing design. According to a study by RENTCafe®, people aged 55 and over—or empty-nester baby boomers—are the fastest growing renter population in the United States. This new crop of renters is highly educated and seeking an urban or suburban lifestyle, one we often associate with the millennial generation.

The search for an active lifestyle

While some may laugh at the saying “40 is the new 30,” it’s true that many people no longer feel or act like generations before them. It’s especially true for seniors, who want more out of retirement—and life. Their lives have been shaped by formative decades, from the 1960s to the 1980s, a time of radicalism and creativity.

What’s more, while we in the industry classify senior housing construction projects as 55-plus, the fact is that the average move-in age at a senior rental property is 82. People in their mid- to late-50s are still employed, some with children at home. And, 60% of Americans over 60 say they’ll hunt for a new job after retiring from their profession. Moving into what we think of as traditional senior housing is far from their minds.

And healthy, active seniors in their 70s and 80s are seeking housing based on wants, not needs. What do they want?

  • Walking distance to shopping, entertainment and restaurants
  • The opportunity to socialize where they live
  • A less institutional atmosphere—the ability to feel “at home” even if they don’t own their home
  • Physical and emotional safety of living in close proximity to others of similar age

Quite often, apartment living fills all of these wants. And while the great majority don’t want to live among young children, many do welcome a senior housing option that includes spaces for singles or couples without children from younger generations.

What they look for in senior housing design

If senior housing design tastes were ice cream, today’s seniors would not choose vanilla. Their tastes are much more sophisticated to include:

  • Custom furnishings
  • Large, open floor plans
  • Interior amenities like walk-in closets and full kitchens
  • Communal areas inside and outside the building
  • Swimming pools
  • Fitness facilities
  • On-site public spaces, like cafes or entertainment

The challenge when designing a senior housing apartment facility is not only to attract residents in a competitive environment but also in its flexibility to serve the aging population as their health declines. If done right, a senior housing construction project will keep residents content and comfortable as long as their health allows.

Seeking a senior housing design expert?

We at Community Living Solutions have expertise in what seniors are looking for in independent, active living. Ask us about our senior housing design process that includes master planning and construction management. For a no-obligation consultation, complete our contact form or call 920-969-9344.

Senior Living Construction Opens in Keystone, Iowa

Facility celebrates with ribbon cutting

Community Living Solutions and Keystone Nursing Care Center in Keystone, Iowa, celebrated completion of phase one on a 12,350-square-foot senior living construction project, hosting a ribbon cutting in late February.

The first stage of CLS’ design-build project included a one-story addition with 10 short-term rehabilitation beds, four long-term skilled care private rooms and an inpatient/outpatient therapy center. As we try to do with most projects, CLS teamed with many local and regional contractors to complete the project.

The addition’s interior design has features unique to Keystone—it incorporates photos taken by staff of the local community and environment to help residents and rehab patients feel at home.

“The goal of this project was to provide a more private and comfortable space for short-term rehabilitation patients,” said Aaron Klug, CLS architectural production manager. “The therapy center is now three times its previous size, and patients will enjoy using a separate, private entrance for outpatient therapy.”

CLS will complete the senior living construction project’s second phase this spring. It includes a 400-square-foot commercial kitchen as well as other building and courtyard renovations.

Keystone Nursing Care Center, a 45-bed senior living facility, opened in 1973. It also serves residents in its assisted living complex and independent living apartments.

Senior living design is all we do

If you’re interested in expanding your senior living facility, give us a call at 515-478-3544. Our team of senior living construction experts can help you navigate Iowa’s building requirements, including facilitating a Certificate of Need.

Clark County Senior Living Construction Project

Clark County Rehabilitation & Living Center opens

Community Living Solutions and the Clark County Rehabilitation & Living Center in Owen, Wis., celebrated the opening of the senior living facility’s short-term rehabilitation suites on Feb. 15. CLS broke ground on the 23,570-square-foot, single-story addition in May 2018.

The new addition connects to the existing 1920s-era building. CLS’s senior living design included creating a new main entryway featuring a drive-under canopy to make patient drop-off and pick-up easier, especially during inclement weather.

The new addition also includes:

  • A physical therapy gym
  • 16 private short-term rehabilitation rooms with private baths
  • 16 private long-term care rooms with private baths

“Our goal in designing the Clark County Rehabilitation & Living Center was to remind residents of home so that they can lead more active, healthy lives,” said Aaron Klug, CLS architectural production manager. “The senior living design features household living rooms, private dining options, a country kitchen and more. We anticipate the facility will be in demand as area residents consider their options for short- and long-term care.”

The Clark County Rehabilitation & Living Center has served the county since 1922. In addition to short-term rehabilitation, assisted living and long-term care, it specializes in memory care, geriatric psychiatric care and care for the intellectually disabled.

Senior living construction is our specialty

If you are looking to expand your senior living facility, give us a call. We have expertise in incorporating new designs into existing spaces. Contact us at 920-969-9344 to schedule a complimentary consultation. We’d love to talk!

Remodeling and Adaptive Reuse Projects

Adaptive Reuse Project | Grancare Gardens

Finding more affordable ways to improve marketability

As architects specializing in senior living design and construction, we hear it often—care facility owners and executives like you are challenged with appealing to more discerning clients (and their children) while keeping costs in check. So, what happens when your senior living community is years out of date or when market demand calls for more capacity? That’s when more affordable alternatives to new construction may come into play, including remodeling your facility or embarking on an adaptive reuse project.

If you’re thinking about how you can meet customer demand when you don’t have the ability or aren’t interested in building new, it’s worthwhile to consider these alternatives.

Master planning: The first step

Differentiation is always the name of game in senior care. While the care you provide is the most important, your facility’s look and atmosphere is a major driver in whether a prospective resident chooses you over your competitor. Today’s seniors and their children are looking for their next living space to feel like home, a space where they are comfortable and can stay as active as possible.

Considering facility changes? Stay competitive with architectural design by starting your planning phase sooner rather than later. This is especially true if a new long-term care facility is planned in your market—the goal would be to have your project done about the same time so that new competition doesn’t get a step ahead of you.

If you’re in a competitive market and considering adaptive use or remodeling, a comprehensive master plan will benefit you in a variety of ways:

  • It’ll help ensure your remodeling or adaptive use project meets market needs.
  • It’ll provide you with a detailed financial analysis to determine whether the project is cost-effective.
  • Finally, it’ll provide you with a general concept of what your design will look like and the programs and services you could offer.

If you’re planning a facility remodel, this initial document should also include a plan for construction with minimal resident or caregiver disruptions. At CLS, we even create plans that involve and engage your residents in viewing construction progress, when possible, so that they feel included in their home’s evolution.

Considering adaptive reuse

If a master plan reveals your local market could use more senior living facilities, you may want to consider an adaptive reuse project, rather than building from scratch. Empty medical facilities, hotels, schools and other commercial buildings may lend themselves to such projects. Adaptive reuse is a commercial construction trend that many senior living facilities are adopting around the United States due to the scarcity and high land costs. In some cases, it’s also helping senior living communities locate in coveted spaces close to downtowns or cultural centers, where today’s seniors want to be.

But not every available space lends itself to a more affordable option. That’s when careful planning and a complete understanding of what it would take to convert the property becomes a significant piece of the planning process. While these are considerations for any senior living facility, it’s important to keep them in mind through an adaptive use redesign:

  • Mobility: How will seniors enter and exit easily? Do the materials used in the original construction provide high contrast to improve visibility? Is lighting sufficient? If the space is especially large or has several stories, consider upkeep on elevators and providing rest spaces to break up longer walkways.
  • Socialization: Seniors’ physical and mental health relies on socialization with others. Ensure they have access to common spaces, even if it’s in a lobby area as well as outdoors.
  • Public spaces: Based upon the location and size of an adaptive reuse project, it may lend itself to public use. Perhaps a portion could be rented out for a local shop or café. Or, your public-facing space could be designed to invite the community to share a cup of coffee or fitness class.

An adaptive reuse project success

When Grancare Gardens in Green Bay, Wis., approached us to develop a new assisted living center, we saw an opportunity literally next door. Grancare’s long-term nursing facility shared the block with an abandoned medical clinic and its parking lot. Although Grancare had been looking for a green space to build, we approached them about reusing the former clinic because it offered two benefits: it would allow Grancare to provide a continuum of care on one campus, and it offered cost savings.

We  transformed the dark clinic environment into an inviting 16-unit space with large windows and a gazebo that draw in natural light, comfortable interior design elements, an open-concept common area and a beautiful outdoor garden.

Architects specializing in senior living

If you are considering remodeling your senior living community or see an opportunity for an adaptive reuse project, give us a call at (920) 969-9344 or visit our Contact page. We can help you develop the most cost-effective plan to meet your market needs.

The Power of Light and Space in Dementia-friendly Environments

Designing space and lighting solutions for memory care facilities

In creating a dementia-friendly environment, the right lighting and space design can have an incredibly positive effect on resident quality of life. In fact, both artificial and natural light, as well as space design, can have an impact on emotional and psychological well-being.

How we integrate lighting design into dementia care homes

At Community Living Solutions, we’re dedicated to designing and building senior living communities that get to the heart of what our clients and their residents need. And when it comes to designing dementia-friendly environments, lighting design plays an integral role in not only creating a peaceful, healing environment but also making life easier for those who care for the residents.

Dementia care is complex and can be challenging to manage. So how is it possible that lighting and space—construction aspects that seem deceptively simple—make a difference? The answers may surprise you.

Biodynamic lighting allows us to harness daylight’s biological effects even in an environment with artificial lighting, like senior living communities. These biological effects are profound. Reduced exposure to daylight can lead to sleep problems, mood disorders and chronic fatigue. Meanwhile, biodynamic lighting allows us to mimic the variations of natural daylight through intentional design and light management. From a design and construction perspective, opportunities abound.

First, it’s important to note how lighting is shown to make a significant difference in the lives of senior living residents, in particular residents with dementia.

Tailored lighting intervention is proven to help those living with dementia

According to a recent 12-week study of multiple dementia care communities, increasing indoor exposure to daylight was shown to reduce depression among residents. More, it’s been found that exposure to the right amount of daylight is an effective non-drug treatment for those with dementia. Designing a space that allows for increased daylight exposure for residents could then feasibly improve quality of life for the 20 to 30 percent of individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD).

In addition, appropriately tailored lighting has been shown to alleviate sleep disturbances. Among individuals with ADRD, nighttime wandering is a common concern. By reducing sleep disturbances through lighting design for dementia care homes, facilities can also reduce this phenomenon. Less wandering results in a reduced risk of dangerous falls. Also, a tailored lighting design or intervention that stimulates the resident’s natural sleep and wakefulness cycles are shown to decrease what’s known as “sundowning,” or late-day confusion among dementia patients, while improving behavioral problems and lessening agitation.  One recent study on lighting and Alzheimer’s patients showed at the end of just four weeks of lighting intervention, sleep disturbance and depression dropped significantly, and by the end of six months, sleep disturbance and depression scores dropped by half. Other studies have mirrored these findings while also noting decreased agitation scores.

The power of human-centric lighting

We all know that feeling we get when we’re outdoors and the sun just begins to dip below the horizon, the drowsiness that accompanies a rainy day or the joy of seeing the sun spread its golden light across the horizon in the morning. The role light plays in our mood and wellbeing is proven to us time and again, almost without us noticing it. With human-centric lighting, we design lighting while keeping in mind how it affects the many aspects of our lives. That means human-centric lighting is designed to optimize:

  • Mood
  • Productivity
  • Perception
  • Circadian rhythms
  • Visual acuity
  • Sustainability

How well we can see is central to a number of our needs, from our sense of safety and wellbeing to our health, mood, task performance, social communication and aesthetic judgment. As a result, how we see and perceive our environment impacts our emotions, motivations, behavior and even our long-term memory.

Through biodynamic lighting in design for dementia care homes, we are able to send the appropriate cues to our bodies by mimicking the appropriate outdoor lighting for everything from dawn to daylight to dusk, including the nuances of an overcast sky, mid-afternoon sun rays and even sunset. Lighting “dose” can be adjusted for intensity, duration, timing and more, and it can be customized for individual environments, including resident rooms, community rooms and general areas.

Recommendations for creating dementia-friendly environments with light

Now that we recognize the potential for lighting in senior living environments and how it factors in dementia care, here are some recommendations for designing and building a dementia-friendly environment.

  • Maximize resident exposure to daylight during the day, but especially in the morning
  • Evenly illuminate spaces, to minimize contrast and especially shadows
  • Minimize exposure to blue-rich light sources after 8 p.m.
  • Use amber, or warm light sources, after sunset
  • Create dark environments for sleeping
  • Avoid using artificial light sources during the night
  • Be mindful of quality of life over quantity of light

Facility design for dementia care homes

In addition to lighting interventions, use of space and purposeful wandering capability for residents improves quality of life for individuals with dementia. From an architectural perspective, it’s important to design a home-like environment for residents, one which engages the senses, reduces confusion and feels familiar. Common areas that feel homey, including living room-like spaces and comfortable dining areas, go a long way in comparison to the hospital-like environments in the past.

Purposeful wandering has been shown to reduce agitation and confusion. Incorporating purposeful wandering into your design can be done in several ways:

  • Minimize dead-end corridors
  • Create activity areas to encourage movement
  • Design nourishment areas where residents have easy access to snacks
  • Develop sitting nodes, for a sense of place
  • Build interior, secured courtyards as a special focus for community spaces, and a safe place for residents to connect with nature
  • Organize life stations for residents to display familiar images and items
  • Incorporate memory boxes into wall spaces

Lighting and space: new frontiers in building a dementia-friendly environment

At Community Living Solutions, we’re eager to help you design the future of your dementia care home. From lighting to space design and more, our experts are ready to help you create a senior living community that provides the highest possible quality of life for residents while achieving your business goals.

If you are interested in seeing how we can help you develop senior care solutions and design for dementia care homes, request a consultation through our Contact page or call us at (920) 969-9344.