Wayne Langley

One of the most interesting and enjoyable aspects of being involved in the aging services space is the ability to look around the country (and the world) at how different organizations are applying trends in design. From the upscale, fast-paced communities of the Northeast to the eco-friendly, fitness-focused communities on the West Coast, communities are applying innovations in new and creative ways — all in an effort to appeal to potential residents and earn their business.

The most ubiquitous design trend to hit senior living in the last five years has to be the bistro — every community seems to have one. Whether it was designed from the ground up and newly installed or an existing space that was repurposed, the bistro has become as common as the dining hall of old. This has caused us to wonder: What’s the next bistro-type amenity that every community is going to have to build?

We believe that the answer is a wellness center. New residents aren’t happy with an exercise bike and a treadmill stashed in a closet being labeled as a “workout room.” They want a bright, airy space, with dedicated and trained staff members, wherein they can attend to their wellness needs, which go far beyond exercise. Progressive communities are offering the latest in high-tech fitness gear, supplemented with wellness practitioners from across the spectrum, such as yoga, Reiki and acupuncture. It is our prediction that, in five to 10 years, those communities that have failed to funnel resources into their wellness amenities are going to struggle to find residents.

As Baby Boomers continue to age into the retirement community marketplace, they bring with them a hallmark of their age group — the “Me Generation.” No longer will potential residents review a property and say, “Well, I guess we can make this work.” Rather, they are demanding the ability to customize and personalize their new living spaces. And two options just won’t do it! They want to see the gamut of materials, styles and finishes enabling them to feel like their new home is truly their own. Marketers have to adapt to these desires at a rapid pace. Where once facilities could flip an apartment for resale in a week, now it may take several months to bring a space up to the standards of its new owner. Finding creative ways to enable flips to occur quickly and economically is sure to be a growing trend.

In many parts of the country, residents are also becoming more environmentally conscious, demanding that their homes reflect their values. Recycling, the use of low-energy appliances and lights and sustainably sourced food products are just the tip of the iceberg. Communities are now looking to the installation of solar panels for energy production — not just for homes, but also for common areas. Resident gardens are also increasing in size, as dining services teams are being challenged to include the ultimate in fresh ingredients: those grown by the residents themselves, on-site. Some organizations are looking to these trends as opportunities to grow and improve, while others are struggling to keep up and find their place in the market.

As we work with our clients around the country, it always intrigues us to see who is pushing the boundaries of the current trends and who is taking extra time to evaluate what others are doing and put their own, unique spin on it. Whichever type of community you may be in, it’s our opinion at Varsity that these trends are going to be major factors in senior living design into 2018 and well beyond!