Senior Living Design

Douglas Pancake Architects, a California-based architecture firm specializing in the design and build of senior housing facilities, implements the latest senior living design elements in to every facility to create supportive and positive living environments for seniors in all stages of aging.

What is Senior Living Design?

Senior Living Design is the integration of décor and technology into a senior-focused environment. Senior living design should work in conjunction with the facility architecture (senior housing architecture) to make the environment functional for seniors, their family, and facility staff.

Why is Senior Living Design Important?

The interior design of senior-focused environments affects resident happiness and staff morale. All design elements should to create an environment that promotes wellness, independence, and stimulates engagement through the use of communal spaces, features and amenities.

Senior Living Design Elements

  • Communal Spaces (indoor and outdoor)
  • Furniture
  • Color Schemes
  • Decor
  • Lighting
  • Flooring
  • Technology Integration

Communal Spaces stimulate engagement and positive feelings about belonging to a community. Communal spaces should be well lit, easily accessible for seniors of all mobility types (i.e. wheelchair, walker, cane, etc…), and uniquely purposed and appropriately sized areas. Whether indoor or outdoor, all spaces should promote integration and the type of socialization that’s comfortable for the individual and contribute to the fundamentals of socializing (aka The Three Zones of Socialization: involvement, cognitive development, and socialization).

Furniture should be aesthetically-pleasing, durable, and functional for seniors and facility staff.

Color Schemes are unique to the purpose of the facility because colors can impact mood and healing. Warm colors are ideal for memory care facilities or environments for those that have cognitive needs because they stimulate appetite, alleviate depression, and give a sense of safety and security. Cool colors are ideal for skilled nursing facilities because they create a sense of calm and reduce agitation.

Décor that has meaning should be incorporated into senior-focused environments. Ideally, pieces that exhibit the local taste or flair should be used. Locally-sourced accent pieces and décor add a sense of history and pride.

Lighting promotes safety by helping seniors avoid hazard with objects, falls, injury, or getting lost. Lighting affects circadian rhythms, which is why it is important to use natural light and other quality light sources, such as LED lighting. In 2018, was an increase in the implementation of LED lighting in senior-focused environments. LED lighting saves energy, promotes healthy sleep patterns, and reduces anxiety.

Flooring can impact mobility and confidence in mobility. A space may seem warm and inviting with a rug, but rugs are a trip-hazard to seniors and staff. Hard floors are great because they typically require less maintenance, but the finish on the floor in an important factor in senior-focused environments. Shiny finishes may make some nervous and inhibit them from getting involved with their community. Hard floors can also negatively affect acoustics, making it hard to hear in certain areas. Carpet and hard-floors with matte finishes and distinct differences between the flooring and baseboards are recommended.

Technology Integration includes the implementation of technology in and throughout senior-focused environments and enable seniors to socialize beyond their living facility and be a part of their surrounding community.

Where are Senior Living Design Elements Used?

Senior living design elements can be useful when incorporated into households with an aging senior, like a parent or a spouse that requires care.

Senior Living Design Trends

Senior living design trends are constantly changing as seniors’ preferences change and care and technology evolve.

Recent senior living design trends are:

    • Using natural lighting and adaptable LED lighting that aligns with natural circadian rhythm
    • Implementing design elements that appeal to seniors, their families, caregivers, and facility staff
    • Incorporating amenities for facility employees and staff
    • Décor using jewel tones, mixed metal, lush fabrics
    • Finished design elements with warmer and neutral colors
    • Unique accent pieces that reflect local culture (use of less mass-produced pieces)
    • Focusing on the aesthetics, features, and spacing of outdoor wellness areas:
      • Trails that are friendly to people of all-mobility types and wide enough for socialization
      • Stations for outdoor fitness and exercise
      • Multi-functional lawns for yoga and Tai Chi
      • Outdoor décor: firepits and decorative planters
      • Rooftop spaces with social areas

About Douglas Pancake Architects

Douglas Pancake Architects is a California-based architectural firm specializing in senior housing and healthcare facilities. For more than 25 years, DPA has been an innovative leader in the evolution of senior housing design, code development, and an advocate for seniors in all stages of aging.

The architects at DPA are committed to creating supportive and meaningful environments for seniors that promote wellness and independence.

Additional Resources from DPA:
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19000 MacArthur Blvd., Ste. 500
Irvine, CA 92612
Phone: (949) 720-3850
Fax: (949) 720-3843

19000 MacArthur Blvd., Ste. 500
Irvine, CA 92612
Phone: (949) 720-3850
Fax: (949) 720-3843

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