01 Nov Senior Living Design Focus: Outdoor Ammenities
Senior Living Design Trend-
Creating outdoor living spaces to heighten community engagement.
Long gone are the days of “nursing homes” where aging residents had nothing better to do than gather in front of the television watch day-time talk shows. With the ever-growing population of seniors, Assisted Living Communities are having to re-adjust their programming and design strategies. This is especially important to accommodate the influence of Baby-boomers (soon-to-be resident population,) a more engaged population, with higher quality of living expectations.
One of the main ways Senior Living Design is changing within these communities is the focus on outdoor amenities. In an article by Building Design and Construction, they describe the necessity to create outdoor living spaces as “destinations.” These spaces are where members of the community can interact and “enliven the 55+ residential experience.”
Below are 5 outdoor living spaces/ destinations that have become prominent trends within the senior living design scene.
1. Swimming Pools
Swimming has long been thought of one of the most sustainable, and beneficial aerobic activates. In an article from Times Magazine, Dr. Kyle Yost (a sports medicine specialist at the University of Maryland Medical Center) describes swimming as one of the highest “low-risk, high- reward pursuits.” Swimming combines aerobic exercise and resistance training, meaning it improves fitness and strength. And “unless you’re swimming competitively or for hours every day, it’s easy on the joints.”
Another benefit, swimming pools are a great family activity. It’s common that senior living communities with pools attract residents that can invite their grandchildren and other family members to visit and utilize this particular amenity.
2. Lawn Activities
City Parks, and residential backyards have likely served as the backdrop for many collective memories of residents in Senior Living Communities. Re-introducing outdoor living spaces for residents to engage with like they have prior to moving into the community is crucial. Providing spaces for Activities such like Bocce Ball, Croquet or even a putting green, will create more opportunities for residents to engage with one another over a shared activity.
3. Fireplaces and Grills
Another great idea for more community engagement is having an outdoor cooking space with a grill. Programming could be easily taken outside, and this space would be great for cooking lessons in an Al Fresco environment. Additionally, a great outdoor entertainment space serves as an opportunity for the space to be rented out, bringing additional outdoor engagement into the senior living community, and bonus income for the community to re-invest in itself.
4. Wandering Paths
Like swimming, walking is one of the best activities a person can be doing throughout their lifetime, specifically as they begin aging. The AARP published a study that found walking three times a week consistently for one year, increased the size of the hippocampus. The hippocampus being: “a part of the brain that’s key to memory.”
By integrating walking/ wandering paths into community programming, residents could strengthen parts of their brain with a few walks a week in a safe, and beautiful environment. This type of activity is particularly great for memory care communities home to individuals with Alzheimer’s and other forms of Dementia. The study highlighted in AARP continues to say, “this important study goes well beyond saying that exercise is good for older people… it links exercise specifically to a way in which aging affects the brain, and clearly establishes a means to ameliorate the onset of age-related memory decline.” -Scott Small, M.D. (Columbia University neurologist)
5. Outdoor Amphitheater
Communities having their own mini amphitheater are a unique outdoor destination/trend that we’re really seeing take off. Having a space where residents and families could congregate to either watch out door movie nights, or having a musical guest from outside the community, is another great way to introduce imaginative community programming and engagement.