Over the past decade, design trends have been pushing a more progressive, upbeat vision of senior living, one that encourages more independence and social connectivity. Yet the deadly impact of the coronavirus may be forcefully pushing the sector’s design back in the opposite direction, reports an article in Bloomberg Thursday.

“The virus is antithetical to the feeling we try to create, of being part of a large residential community,” architect Anthony Vivirito told the media outlet. A senior project manager at the Architectural Team — a Boston-based firm that specializes in designing skilled nursing, independent, assisted living and memory care communities — Vivirito said that COVID-19 caught the multibillion-dollar senior living industry “flat-footed.”

Many senior living advocates are hopeful, however, that the pandemic could force positive changes. Robyn Stone, DrPH, co-director of LeadingAge LTSS Center @UMass Boston, told Bloomberg that he sees a lot of potential in the adoption of telemedicine, video chats and remote means to connect seniors to medical services, loved ones and peers. She also noted that improved technology can support aging in place, promote independence and cut costs. 

Still others in the industry believe rethinking the development model of nursing and assisted living facilities can bring about improved outcomes. The media outlet pointed to a collaboration between Evergreen Real Estate Group and the Chicago Housing Authority. The project will convert a former hospital, vacant since 2002, into a 193-unit affordable senior housing project on the city’s northwest side. The $81 million project combines two models of care in one — independent and supportive living units — and allows the CHA to keep rents low, at 30% of monthly income.

“In effect, the project offers some of the advantages of continuing care retirement communities, where residents can age in place and move seamlessly to different modules with more advanced care,” the news outlet reported.

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