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How Senior Housing Design is Taking on the Rental Market

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

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.