Werner House Woodland Manor Mansion
The Werner House Woodland Manor Mansion (Image courtesy of Infinite Living)

A first-of-its-kind senior living technology-enabled design showcase in a renovated World War I-era Columbus, OH, mansion is open to anyone interested in the future of aging in place.

Senior living design expert Lisa M. Cini recently opened the Werner House Woodland Manor Mansion to overnight, weekend or week-long stays for anyone to experience the latest tech-enabled products designed for older adults. 

Multigenerational social experiment

Cini said she came up with the concept after moving her parents and grandmother into her home. She quickly realized she had a multigenerational aging-in-place social experiment going on right in front of her, so she decided to take advantage of the situation and use technology and design to create a more age-friendly living space in her own home.

After her grandmother died, she expanded on the concept to create a place where anyone could try out the technology-enabled spaces. Cini said she wanted to make sure people had choices and were educated. The result is the Werner House Woodland Manor Mansion, which she markets as an Airbnb rental.

Change in mindset

Cini told McKnight’s Senior Living that she began working in the senior living industry 27 years ago. And although providers and operators talk about doing “innovative stuff,” she said they are really doing the same things they did three decades ago. 

A three-time author, Cini said she wrote her first book on aging and design because “people weren’t listening to me.” She said that Lowe’s, Home Depot, Amazon, Best Buy, CVS and Walgreens were doing things for older adults that senior living should be doing, creating competition.

“In reality, from a user standpoint — from a family, resident and even staffing standpoint — there hasn’t been a huge tech shift in senior living,” Cini said, adding that although cost is part of the issue, it comes down to mindset.

The goal of Werner House, she said, is to help people experience innovation in real time and help them understand what the possibilities are for aging. She hopes visitors take those ideas to retrofit their own homes or learn what technology to look for when selecting a retirement community. She also has had senior living executives tour the spaces and look at implementing some of the technology into their communities. 

Innovative tech-enabled design

Werner House outdoor space
Technology-enabled design in senior living. (Image courtesy of Infinite Living)

Technologic and design innovations in the mansion include kitchens and bathrooms with height-adjustable countertops, sinks, cabinets and toilets, as well as living rooms and bedrooms with ergonomic furniture, circadian lighting and smart flooring that alerts staff to guest falls or turns on lights when their feet hit the floor.

Guests also can try out a workout space with exercise equipment designed to maintain balance and cognition, or visit an age-friendly spa with a seated infrared sauna, and hot and cold plunge pools designed to increase circulation and reduce joint pain.

“Transforming this magnificent French Opera-style mansion built in 1914 into an accessible space for not just seniors, but millennials, GenXers and boomers to connect and test the most innovative technology demonstrates how folks can move from fear to freedom with confidence,” Cini said. “Whether it’s proper lighting, no transitions in flooring, height-adjustable sinks, cabinets, toilets and countertops, people can gain independence and dignity.”

In the past six months, Cini said the space has hosted weddings, conferences, retreats, dinners and tours. She is doing a full evaluation on the spaces and wrapping up a six-part documentary that she plans to launch next month about the experience. 

“Our short-term rental guests will be able to experience how the Infinite Living Collaboration transformed the mansion’s traditional beauty and grandeur with the most up-to-date functioning technology in a stylish manner that’s accessible to all,” she said. “Age-friendly design is good for every age. There’s a season for everything.”

Cini also is living in the mansion, experiencing every room and aspect of the space. She worked with competing designers to provide options, and her website features a three-dimensional tour of the mansion.

Cini calls it a “soul space” — a home-like environment where people feel at ease through engaging design. She said she hopes to produce additional showcase spaces across the country.

“I hope this moves the needle a little bit, starts the conversation, helps those that have the courage to do some of this and serve in a progessive way,” she said.