Senior Housing admits “Aging In Place” is the FIRST CHOICE

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It’s sure nice to see the senior housing industry admitting what we REALLY WANT.

I just read this article this morning, and I had to share it with our community! 8 trends shaping today’s senior housing is a great article covering what’s happening in our industry related to senior housing.  BUT, let’s take a look at the math in this scenario shall we?

From the article: “With more than 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 every day, the demographics are smiling on the senior housing market segment. Although the overwhelming majority of boomers will continue to live in their own (or someone else’s) home or apartment, 5-8% of them will ultimately opt for seniors-only multifamilyThe-Gardens-at-Town-Square-senior-living-landscape-front-of-building-downtown-Bellevue.jpg housing, according to David Schless, President of the American Seniors Housing Association ( Americans born between 1946 and 1964 number 76 million, so that small minority adds up to as many as six million boomers needing generation-specific housing.  To clarify, ASHA classifies senior housing—residential settings with a minimum age requirement, usually age 55—in five categories: senior apartments, independent living (IL), assisted living (AL), nursing care (NC), and continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs).”

So in this article, they are stating that the “leftover” percentage is 92% at a MINIMUM!  Okay, good.  So your multi-billion dollar senior housing facilities industry is chasing the 5-8%, we’ll take care of the rest then!  OUR “Aging In Place” market is the other 92-95% totaling 69,920,000 – 72,200,000 (yes that is MILLIONS of people) that want to AGE IN PLACE, in their OWN HOME!   We agree, we have a lot of people to educate and show exactly HOW they can do just that.  And why not share the “how to”, it’s filling the request of the client, right?

Of the “8 Things” they speak to for “facility design” (where we don’t want to go), they do share a couple of points that matter to our clients.  So let’s address the two points most critical to our own discussion.

3.  Enable seniors to age in place.

5.  Integrate seniors into the larger community.

Today’s seniors / Baby Boomers have a definite mindset about what they want in retirement.  That much is clear.  They are not the “grandparents” of the Great Depression Era (that’s their own parents) who would make decisions on what’s best for the whole and the group.  They are figuring out right now though (the boomers about their own parents) the challenges of caring for their folks and resolution options for their own folks’ housing situations.  As a result and their personality in general for the decades they grew up in, this new era of the mature market know what they want, how they want it, when they want it, and how they want to be treated and taken care of along the way as consumers (who, by the way, make up the demographic with the most purchasing power and income-capable influence in our nation over the next 20-30 years)… We’re here to help meet those wants and needs for each individual client, and the nation in general via our online education and resources, speaking engagements, radio show, etc.

#3 – Enable seniors to age in place.

Senior woman with her caregiver at home Stock Photo - 14456382

Again quoting the article, “In general, today’s seniors want to stay in their own homes or apartments for as long as possible. “It used to be that people retired at 65, and you would live independently as long as possible, and then go to a nursing home,” says Guszkowski. With people living longer, there is a gray period that could last decades when seniors can live semi-independently.”  

Amen to that!  Did you know that in the last 100 years we have added with medical advancement 30 YEARS to our lifespan and longevity?  That is more longevity increase that we’ve been able to create than in the previous 5,000 years!  Did you know that between 1950 and 2040 the 80+ age group will have increased from 0.5% of our population to 5%?  That’s a 10x (TEN-FOLD) increase in the U.S. population for that 80+ year old demographic that will mostly occur from 2010-2040 in the next 3 decades!  (Stats are similar in other developed countries around the world as well.)

Okay, so it’s clear there is a need and a market for “Aging In Place”, we’ve established that solidly already, right?  Good, let’s move on.  I want to address the term above “semi-independently” for a moment.  We agree that “a little help can go a long way” to staying independent in your own home.  If you are curious about the financial comparison of staying home vs. moving to assisted living type facilities, we’ve written a white paper for the financial planning and retirement asset management industry.  It’s titled “There’s $500,000 hiding in your home”.  Ask your “trusted adviser” if they knows about the paper or the statistics comparing how doing significant remodeling to your home to help you stay there, AND having those changes in place in your home IN ADVANCE of an accident or acute injury can add SEVEN YEARS to your LIFE on average, and SAVE your SAVINGS account to the tune of $500,000 or more! That calculation INCLUDES 20 hours per week of “in home care” by a professional, which can easily add another decade of independence in your own home.  Your financial adviser, if they’re really a “trusted adviser” (that’s what we call them, right?) should know about this, and us.  It’s in your best interest that they do!

#5 – Integrate seniors into the larger community.

From the article, “One way senior housing developers are weaving seniors into their surrounding communities is to open up the amenities within senior housing developments to the general public… that create opportunities for residents to meet and mingle with their neighbors from the surrounding community.”

We just wrote a blog on this topic, and how as an architect we can be a part the solution.  It’s titled “Design Solutions for Aging in Place – BIG PICTURE“.  In this post we share ideas on how we can re-vitalize the Commercial side of the building industry while also meeting the needs of the demographic we are serving, bringing together all generations of our society to benefit the larger good of all sectors and age groups for social interaction, happiness, and increased longevity.

Here’s an excerpt…

What if the EMPTY Big Box Store can become a Senior Community Center or Mature Market Apartments, and the asphalt jungle out front can become a walking park and more of a NORC (Naturally Occurring Retirement Community) as the overall development.  Talk about a WIN/WIN!  It’s near health care, on the bus line, has walking alternatives to restaurants, shopping, etc.  and it would KICK START the RE-VITALIZATION of the building industry in a down economy!  (all this takes is some pro-active re-zoning by the jurisdictions that should be tired of the lack of tax revenue from empty buildings and failed businesses in the last 4-5 years – they should be interested in that, right?)  Envision the vacant gas station as a Senior and Youth Center!?  Imagine the empty K-mart store as a boutique retail multi-tenant storefront, and a mixed use building now, with independent living apartments above?  Sounds a lot better than the sagging canopy and dirty CMU building that’s been vacant for the last 4 years, right?  YES, and I agree.  

It takes vision, passion, and caring about our communities.  We at EtMM and ADM Architecture have that.

On the housing and residential side, 2/3 of “Baby Boomer” suburbia homes are now without children (67% of suburbia is an “empty nester” society & neighborhood now), and it will soon be 3/4 (75%).  So we (and a large percentage of your next 2-3 home buyers) aren’t going to need 3,000 square feet and 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, etc.

But they WILL need a Master Bedroom on the main floor, single level living, wider halls and doors, Universal Design amenities, and Aging In Place design modifications to the existing homes that we do have all around the country.  Universal Design just works better for everyone, and good design disappears in its functionality, it doesn’t stand out and it isn’t ugly or institutional feeling.  Oh, and did I mention that you can save $500,000 making those fixes?  Yes, I know I did…

This brings me to one of their other “8 points” that is worth sharing as well.  

8. Look into the Greenhouse Project model.

From the Article, “The Greenhouse Project, a model of assisted senior living featuring small, shared dwellings with a high level of care, is growing in popularity. Groups of 10 to 12 seniors share kitchen, dining, and common areas but have their own bedrooms and bathrooms. “Residents are taken care of like they’re a big family,”

It’s an age-in-place strategy that balances independence with just enough support for seniors to be able to stay where they are as they become frailer with age, rather than having to enter a traditional nursing home.”

For thousands of years our societies and cultures have designed communities that take care of each other and live “communally” – hence the term “It takes a VILLAGE”.  This is true and required yet again.  It will take a village to solve the housing problems in the decades ahead, and it will take a village for us all to take care of each other and our families.  This is a TEAM effort both from a professional view and a personal one.

Young and senior hands holding their hands with a yellow dandelion Stock Photo - 13917712

So clearly, if the multi-billion dollar senior housing industry is taking care of the 5-8% of Baby Boomers and their needs for “facility solutions’, we can take care of the other 92-95% that WANT TO STAY IN THEIR OWN HOME, right!?  I think we can!  We plan to do just that, One client at a time, one educational speaking engagement for awareness at a time, one client-driven design solution at a time.  With the goal, just as our motto / tag line states,


“Dramatically improving our clients ability to live a longer and happier life at home.”

Additonal resources

2012 NIC/ASHA Seniors Housing Construction Trends Report,” National Investment Center for the Seniors Housing & Care Industry (NIC) and American Seniors Housing Association (ASHA). $150.
Design for Aging Review 11: “Insights and Innovations: The State of Senior Housing,” Perkins Eastman Research Collaborative, on behalf of the American Institute of Architects.
Recurring themes from 50 projects submitted for this biennial report: 1) connectivity to the greater neighborhood and natural surroundings; 2) designing for capability, not disability; 3) affordability-driven innovations; 4) holistic wellness; 5) blurred boundaries.
10 Top Design Trends in Senior Living,” by Bradford Perkins, FAIA (January 2010).

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7 thoughts on “Senior Housing admits “Aging In Place” is the FIRST CHOICE
  • Kate Mancer says:

    Even if all houses were retrofitted to universal design standards (a huge challenge) that would still leave the issue of isolation. Here in British Columbia we are working on new models for aging in place that incorporate new multi-family buildings with virtual retirement communities. Thus we achieve appropriate physical surroundings, a way to provide services as they are needed on a cost-effective basis as well as the sense of neighborliness created by intentional communities. Win win win!

    • admin says:

      Great comments and thoughts Kate. Thanks for weighing in on the topic. It’s sincerely appreciated. Yes, isolation (minimized) and socialization is a critical component to health and happiness in the second half of life. I did write another blog about how we can revitalize the building industry by re-use of existing vacant commercial properties that are in walk-able neighborhoods and on transit routes to medical facilities, and how with good and creative rezoning we can create cottage housing vs. seas of asphalt and dirty vacant CMU and tilt-up concrete warehouses, and re-use those buildings for social centers, communal dining and entertainment facilities, etc.

  • Rachel Adelson says:

    It’s so good to hear of new ideas coming. People in their 50s have such different expectations than than the generation that came before, and we have so many amazing urban buildings that can be re-purposed. I’ve seen stories on everything from a convent to a brewery being re-zoned for senior housing. That should feel so much less regimented and institutional.

  • Roger Wright says:

    There is a definite shift in senior housing expectations and what we’ve come to define as ‘senior’ for that matter! It will be interesting to see what direction seniors will lean towards, whether it is aging in place at home or independent living housing. I only wish seniors and families would plan for the future a little more. It is sad when seniors don’t plan for the future and when the time comes, they don’t have many options and end up in state funded nursing homes.

    • admin says:

      Roger, We totally agree the game is changing, and this “elder” class (Baby Boomers) are very different than their parents’ generation. We have much to learn and understand if we wish to appeal to the wants, needs, and rights of this generation. They will drive and direct the housing solutions of the next 2-3 decades. All the professionals we interview on the radio on our show “Encore Living Radio” in Seattle on 1150am KKNW say the same thing you are here, about wishing there was more planning ahead vs. panic “behind” the acute occurrences that put us in reaction mode. It’s more expensive financially, mentally, and emotionally to be reacting vs. pro-active planning. Keep up the great work, and let us know how we can be of assistance! Thanks! Aaron

  • […] care – it ONLY goes UP from there… I’m glad to see that he can understand the SAVINGS that can QUICKLY come as a ROI (Return on Investment) when compared to her facility-based alternatives, by remodeling their […]

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