You have probably heard somewhere and at some time that the population of America is aging rapidly. Amazingly, almost 21 people will turn 65 by the time you finish reading this (assuming it takes you 3 minutes), translating into 10,000 people every day! This phenomenon, which has been occurring since January 2011 and will continue for the next 20 years, has a wide spread influence on design and construction – not just to those of us in the Senior Living design sector, but designers of all building types.
Each point in the lifespan of the baby boomers has had an implication to the built environment. The sale of baby food increased during the late 1940’s, new school construction surged in the 50’s and, of course, the housing boom of the 70’s and 80’s. So what will be the next surge in construction related to the booming aging population?
Not an easy question to answer. So many factors come into play when analyzing aging trends that predicting the future is virtually impossible. What we do know is that baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) still heavily influence what is being done with respect to services and facilities being provided. Seniors are more active today and want choices, freedom and independence. They want security, peace of mind, community, lifelong learning and a sense of purpose. But isn’t this what we all want?
How do we design environments for seniors, and the rest of us, that fulfill these wants and needs? Numerous books have been written on these topics, so I will highlight only a few of the latest trends and thoughts.
Focal Point: The Resident
It’s crystal clear that caring for the aged will change as the baby boomers “age out” and the next generation takes their place. Lifestyle shifts are already occurring as families assume a more active role in care of older family members, both in and out of nursing facilities. Although described with various labels, such as person-centered care, resident-directed, self-directed and relationship-based life care, all of them have the same focus: the resident.
This new emphasis on the resident and his or her freedom to make choices influences the built environment in many ways. Fewer residents now occupy a wing of a facility or household, increasing satisfaction and reducing stress for staff and residents. Household design encourages social connection and a sense of belonging by creating a home identity for residents.