Manju Pai headshot
Manju Pai
Manju Pai headshot
Manju Pai

Senior living design constantly is evolving and improving to ensure the well-being of all residents within any type of community. Whether it is an affordable senior housing, a mid-tier or a high-end, luxury community, simple design elements can be integrated to achieve a similar atmosphere, focused on health and wellness.

The best and most essential design details to achieve top wellness standards are free: biophilia, natural sunlight and fresh air. Those imperative elements are easy to incorporate in any space and have tremendous health benefits, especially for older adults.

Various plants and greenery around the community help clean the air and enhance the overall aesthetic of the space. We tend to use large, floor-to-ceiling windows in senior living communities as well, to take advantage of the natural lighting. All of those simple, affordable solutions can be implemented across all markets.

Indoor-outdoor living is a top priority for most senior living communities, regardless of project budget. Incorporating spaces such as outdoor gardens, landscaped courtyards, roof terraces, gathering spaces and physical activity areas are critical. There, residents can enjoy the pleasures of the outside while remaining safe and healthy within their community.

In terms of overall design and layouts, communal spaces to promote social interactions also is a top priority. We’ve seen the detrimental effects of total isolation on older adults within communities during the early days of the pandemic. As we’re continuing to learn, we’re committed to finding innovative solutions to incorporate areas for residents to express themselves creatively, learn new things, connect with nature, bond with others, have fun and stay fit.

Establishing a connection to the outside world is an essential design practice used across all sectors of senior living, as this helps residents feel part of the larger community. Views of the surrounding neighborhood not only help with additional sunlight exposure but also can create a sense of home and relation to the area. Bringing in local artists and performers for entertainment in the outdoor areas is another great way to enhance the overall spirits of residents.

While designing these spaces, we also consider the context within which we’re designing. A goal is set at the beginning of any site planning, architecture and interior design to create a community that blends in within the local neighborhood. Studying the surrounding nature, vegetation, textures, forms, culture and design style allows residents to feel at home and comfortable where they always have lived. We strive to make those communities as cozy as possible and easy to navigate so that residents can feel a sense of belonging and peace within their new home.

One of our latest projects at StudioPi2 incorporates those easy-to-implement strategies, which help enhance the overall well-being of the residents.

Beach Terrace Memory Care in Stanton, CA, is specifically designed for memory care. The central common areas bring the residents together for socializing, lounging and entertainment through TV and performances by local artists. The design provides the space with adequate daylight, with large windows in each room, floor-to-ceiling glass in common areas and corridors, and roof terraces. The warm finishes exude a cozy, home-like feeling.

Beach Terrace Memory Care also focuses heavily on indoor-outdoor living within the overall design, offering amenities such as outdoor dining, gardening, light physical activities such as Bocce ball and a pet area. The roof terraces with six-foot safety glass railings offer secure areas for outdoor living and connection with the world outside. The amenities and features try to provide the inside-outside lifestyle to its occupants to the best extent possible.

As within Beach Terrace Memory Care, any senior community can leverage those low cost, effortless design elements and amenities to offer the best living experience for all residents across every socioeconomic background.

Manju Pai, the founder of StudioPi2 Architects, has more than 25 years’ experience in the architecture field. She is a licensed architect in California and India, a LEED accredited professional and a member of the AIA, BIA, ULI and TIE. She can be reached at [email protected].

The opinions expressed in each McKnight’s Senior Living guest column are those of the author and are not necessarily those of McKnight’s Senior Living.

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