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Aging in place in a suburban setting

January 29, 2010
by Shekhar Bhushan, AIA
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An architect shares his perspective on senior living as a result of aging in place and its impact on assisted living

In a less dense, more suburban-oriented campus than the high-rise concept discussed in my article “Aging in Place” (Long-Term Living, January 2010), several considerations come into play to keep the assisted living component up to date, as the campus undergoes repositioning for the future:

  • Each time a new or updated component is conceived, consider consolidation/relocation to bring it closer to the heart and soul of the campus, the primary activity area, or the Town Center. This will gradually reduce walking distances on the campus and also improve staffing efficiency.
  • Older campuses are sorely deficient in diverse and common amenity/activity spaces, with alternate dining venues. Town Centers, the heart and soul of each campus, need to be incorporated in central locations with minimum disruption to existing resident activities to minimize walking distances.
  • One central primary kitchen responsible for all bulk cooking for all dining services on campus will need to be created wherever possible. As other dining venues are conceived, they could be served by smaller, compact warming pantries, with bulk cooking still being done in one central location to further reduce staffing.
  • As units become vacant, they will need to be updated with more accessible kitchens, baths, and other amenities so as residents age in place, they can still function comfortably much longer in their homes and apartments.
  • To reduce parking requirements, there will be increased pressure to introduce a car-sharing program, in which common vehicles owned by the campus would be made available to residents as needed, according to a schedule (admittedly a major paradigm shift because of the loss of independence implied by losing one’s own car).

To pay for these improvements:

  • Additional state-of-the-art residential units with higher entrance fees or higher rents will need to be introduced.
  • An additional surcharge to the entrance fees on apartments is also recommended for the new Town Center–type amenities that would gradually be incorporated on old campuses.
  • These units will also increase the overall ratio of residential to healthcare settings and create a stronger/larger feeder to the healthcare components.
  • Not being dependent on outside admissions for success in the healthcare component is important to the financial stability of any campus. It reduces the vulnerability of the campus to external changing economic, market, and financial conditions beyond the control of any organization.
  • Introducing a wellness philosophy that encourages and promotes a healthier life style will further allow persons to stay in their homes and apartments longer.

Shekhar Bhushnan, AIA, is President of SB-Architecture PC, Inc., Centennial, Colorado. For further information, call (720) 221-5412 or e-mail sbarchitecture@comcast.net.

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