By Mary M. Johannesen, AIA, LEED® AP, Principal

Contributing Author, SENIOR HOUSING BUSINESS, March 2023

COVID-19 has undoubtedly changed the way we live, work, play and function within our communities. Although a sense of normalcy has returned to daily life, the ramifications from the pandemic and subsequent lifestyle changes continue to drive development and design trends in the seniors housing industry. Older adults, now more than ever, are prioritizing amenities and functionality that improve their quality of life and ability to age in place safely and comfortably.
From affordable housing to market-rate senior living communities, here are a few key trends we expect to take priority this year:
Mailrooms for the modern lifestyle

Throughout the pandemic, multifamily communities across the country grappled with a significant increase in package deliveries. In response, mailrooms are no longer just a space of function, but rather an essential element to accommodate modern lifestyles, especially for older adults.

Senior residences coming online this year are expected to have spacious, multi-functioning mailrooms with areas for large and small packages, prepared meals, refrigerated grocery deliveries, and even concierge staff to manage the increased volume of deliveries.

However, changes in design to adapt to online purchasing are not limited to the mailroom. Communities are also adding more space near the main entrance to better manage delivery trucks from Amazon, FedEx, Instacart and other deliverers and avoid conflicts with resident cars and community transportation. Back-of-house areas for recycling are also undergoing redesign and expansion to accommodate the increase in cardboard boxes and recyclable food packaging.

An emphasis on in-unit amenities

Another post-pandemic impact is an increased focus on in-unit amenities. Increasingly, residents are preferring private over shared outdoor space. Balconies, patios and Juliet balconies all afford residents access to fresh air.

There is also an emphasis on cooking and dining at home and having space where meals can be enjoyed alongside family and friends. Older adults prefer modern kitchens with pantry storage, higher-end appliances and a dedicated dining space that is more than just a stool at the counter. This is a significant shift compared to years prior, where kitchen islands were often sufficient for in-unit dining. Dining areas are also doing double-duty as home office space with more older adults working remotely.

In life plan communities, over the years we have seen the shift from large formal dining rooms to casual dining, and this trend has only become stronger with many communities providing a wider variety of dining options. Dining choices reflect resident preferences for multiple, smaller, indoor and outdoor venues; increased grab-n-go selections that rival take-out; and an uptick in providing “room service” for a catered dining experience in-unit.

The most sought-after living spaces for seniors will be built with the understanding that the kitchen remains the heart of the home, even for empty nesters.

Reimagining “pet friendly”

In years past, it was difficult to find a senior living community that was truly pet friendly. If pets were allowed, there were often stringent restrictions around breed and size as well as limitations where they could be within the building. However, these rules have dramatically changed.