I recently met with colleagues for a discussion on senior housing trends and thought I’d share the three things we’re seeing in this growing and evolving industry:

1- Tailored Sizes

We’re seeing more diversity in senior housing developments. Smaller developments – some with as few as six, eight or ten units – can easily come into single-family neighborhoods because they don’t have to change zoning requirements. On the other end of the spectrum, we’re also tracking larger senior housing facilities that are able to offer a wide range of services and amenities for residents. The larger developments are having difficulty finding financing in this market but the midsized developments – 40 to 80 units – are seeing some success.

2- A Welcoming Arrival

An important aspect of any size development is the sequencing of how people arrive and leave, and their first and last impressions. What do you hear? What do you see? How do you feel? It is important to create a reassuring, positive experience upon arrival to make it comfortable for the residents as well as the families who come to visit.

We’re also integrating our healthcare concierge concept to senior living. Instead of a reception desk, which can feel like a barrier between staff and family, a low profile desk or counter that blends into the finishes is more welcoming and intimate.

3- Amenities and Interior Trends

Nursing homes used to be designed like a hospital wing, with beds accessible to and located near nursing stations and long, sterile hallways. As Baby Boomers reach retirement age and start looking at senior housing options for themselves as well as their parents, they’ll find many of today’s facilities have amenities similar to resorts as communities are designed with the residents’ needs in mind rather than the institution’s requirements.

Residents want to feel at home and connected to the outdoors. Senior apartments and rooms have comfortable, homey layouts and well as an indoor/outdoor connection. Some designs include French doors that open to the outside but are gated – more like a large window – to allow fresh outside air to circulate. And, just like home, many facilities include a guest room or rooms for resident’s families that can be reserved and rented by the day or week.

Facilities continue to have large public areas where residents can play games, music, enjoy lectures and other events. We’re also seeing fireplaces or reading rooms along corridors that encourage socialization, which is a great benefit for residents. Some facilities include several dining room options (formal, a café or an ice cream area), pools, exercise rooms, movie rooms and more opportunities for residents to socialize and intermingle.