Ben Seager – Intergenerational Designs Replace ‘Aging-in-Place’ Vibe at CCRCs

Senior Housing News

September 23, 2019

Baby boomers are bringing a new set of expectations to senior living, and architects and designers of CCRCs are heeding the call.

It’s no secret the boomers will want to maintain their current lifestyles, especially as they move into the active adult or independent living wings of sprawling continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs). And they don’t want to feel like they’re “old” or “aging in place” in the process, according to Ben Seager, director of design for Irvine, California-based KTGY Architecture + Planning.

“Savvy developers will need to explore ways to integrate their senior living community with the greater community through the development of retail and cultural districts, intergenerational socialization opportunities, and possible benefits of forming informal partnerships with local retailers,” Seager told Senior Housing News. “As an industry, we’ll have to find more ways to provide a variety to appeal to as many people as possible.”

Senior Housing News recently caught up with Seager and Dean Maddalena, founder and president of senior living design firm StudioSIX5, to learn about what trends are shaping CCRCs, inside and out. If you’re involved in an exciting CCRC building project, consider submitting it to the SHN Architecture & Design Awards, which is now accepting submissions.


Flexible, intergenerational spaces

KTGY is currently working on seven ground-up CCRCs, or life plan communities as they’re also called. The design and planning firm is also engaged in numerous repositioning projects.

Some new design features KTGY’s clients are asking for include more casual and experience-based dining venues and mixed-use components. The firm is also designing more flexible, multi-use spaces in amenity areas.

“In typical life plan communities, many of the spaces are used only during certain times and frequently can sit vacant,” Seager added. “This can leave parts of the building lifeless and underutilized. By creating multi-use spaces, the community will feel more vibrant and active throughout the day.”

Intergenerationality is also factoring into new CCRC designs.

“Today’s seniors don’t want to be siloed but want to be a part of the bigger community with ample intergenerational opportunities,” Seager explained. “This means we’re looking at more urban infill locations and designing community serving retail/restaurants into mixed-use life plan communities.”


High standards

On the interior design side, CCRCs are adopting standard design features throughout all care levels, according to Dean Maddalena, founder and president of senior living design firm StudioSIX5. About 10% to 15% of the design firm’s clients are full CCRCs.

“If you’re in independent living and you need to use skilled nursing for rehab after surgery, you want that same level of aesthetic and familiarity that you see in your daily life,” Maddalena told SHN.

Like with KTGY, flexibility and intergenerality are also desired features for many of StudioSIX5’s CCRC clients.

“Every generation will be using these spaces, so we have to design for all generations,” Maddalena said. “And, as the residents age, their needs and demands will most likely change, so you want to build an environment that can change with them.”

Another recent trend that seems to have staying power: big, bold outdoor spaces. Specifically, some of StudioSIX5’s recent projects have included outdoor amphitheaters and graffiti art walls.

“With seniors, they don’t always utilize the outside, so that’s why we’re really trying to embellish those outdoor spaces,” Maddalena said.