From Concept to Reality: Putting Age-Friendly Community Design into Practice
When older adults decide to move from the family home into a senior’s community, they are most often seeking a place that looks and feels like home. While some communities are designed to look and feel more institutional (think hospital or traditional nursing home), research confirms the importance of designing spaces to bring out the feeling of “home” such as ensuring ease of movement, paying detailed attention to the quality of construction materials, furnishings and colours. Today’s older adults are increasingly tech savvy, innovative, independent and diverse, which is driving trends in community design.
Design trend: age-inclusivity
Building a community should first and foremost be welcoming. Anyone can build four walls and a roof, but a great deal of care should be taken to ensure amenities function well, and that people feel at home. Lighting, colours, features – all need to work in favour of the residents and their well-being. This is especially the case for those living with cognitive impairment.
According to Gensler, a global architectural and design firm, age-inclusive design responds to diverse consumer needs and is being adopted broadly across industries and sectors, from senior communities to municipalities: wider sidewalks, parks with activities for people of all ages, modular furniture, and flooring material to reduce slips and falls are just a few examples of considerations for age-inclusive design.
United’s communities bring age-inclusive design together with the comforts and conveniences of home. Pleasant spaces and well-planned outdoor areas help nurture a resident’s sense of well-being. Wide hallways offer room to move freely, especially for those using mobility aids. Furniture can be reconfigured for many occasions. Program spaces are purposefully designed and fully equipped to support delivery of unique and innovative experiences. In-suite amenities like laundry and storage space, a choice of kitchen or kitchenette, and larger-than-average bedrooms contribute to that feeling of home.
When it comes to bringing that feeling of home to common spaces, it’s often one of the first things new residents notice at United. Artwork created by residents adorns the walls. Signage is meant to be subtle and non-intrusive. Common spaces encourage gatherings.
When a place feels like home, you’ll know it
“When we first walked through the front door, the thing that struck us was how much light there was,” said resident Al Gething. “The light was coming into the bistro and the reception area. It reminded us of our previous condo, which had a lot of natural sun in the morning. As well, the whole layout was just wonderful. I do a lot of work in the art studio – painting, sketching and ceramics – and the professional staff is so wonderful and there’s so much light. There is a warm and welcoming feeling here. It feels like home.”
Good design goes hand-in-hand with wellness
According to a study by architectural firm Perkins Eastman, survey respondents said design strategies used in their communities were integral to their well-being. Their perceptions of wellness, including emotional and physical wellness, increased, and they identified access to the arts and ongoing learning opportunities as important design improvements.
The study noted that, “both senior living providers and designers are interested in supporting resident whole-person wellness, and that there is a belief that the environment can have a positive impact on the occupants.”
When designing its communities, United balances the needs of those who require a higher level of care with the interests of people who continue to live independently. Communities are designed to promote independence and choice – so residents have the same freedom they’ve always enjoyed, to do what they want, when they want and to come and go as they please.
An integrated approach to design
One cornerstone of United’s approach is integration, where everyone is included as much as possible in all activities and programs. How does this impact design? This means open spaces where residents can mingle, read a newspaper or have coffee. Fitness and arts areas that have plenty of natural light. Green spaces for convenient access to nature. Dining spaces that offer a choice for casual and formal meals or family get-togethers. Other spaces like a theatre, inviting seating areas and alcoves interspersed through the community, a library and heated underground parking have been thoughtfully designed for enjoyment, comfort and convenience.
As a proponent of lifelong learning, United extends this philosophy to spaces in its communities. Included in community design are purpose-built spaces where guest lectures and other gatherings can be held. These spaces encourage connection and give residents the opportunity to take courses, attend lectures and musical events while providing space to invite experts to come into the communities to host discussions and presentations.
The focus is on stimulating the mind, and creating open invitations throughout the community that appeal to a person’s impulse to learn and express their creativity.
Putting design principles into practice
While the research points to the importance of thoughtful design and inclusive spaces as a way to foster well-being, at United, design concepts are being put into practice and have been the key to creating meaningful connections, fostering lifelong learning, and building an engaging and active community. Altogether, United’s communities promote a safe and comfortable environment that support independence, encourage active living, physical activity and social connections.
Speak with one of our active living advisors about life in a United community. They can arrange tours of our Garrison Green and Fish Creek communities. If you know a friend or family member who could benefit from living in a United community, send them a link to our website or blog, or arrange a future visit. We are happy to help!