Designing Senior Housing for Active Lifestyles

January 17, 2024

The landscape of senior living is undergoing a significant transformation. Today’s seniors are not merely looking for a place to retire; they seek communities that align with their active and vibrant lifestyles and help them feel more connected to those around them. Because of that, there are crucial elements for developers of senior housing to consider when designing spaces for today’s seniors.


Accessibility and Universal Design:

Ensuring that senior housing is accessible to everyone is paramount. This means incorporating features like wider doorways, step-free entrances, and accessible amenities. These elements aren’t just about meeting standards; they empower residents to move freely and independently within their living spaces.


Multi-Purpose Community Spaces:

Because isolation is one of the biggest issues faced by seniors, community spaces need to be at the heart of senior living designed for active lifestyles. These community spaces do just that – make seniors feel part of a community and more connected to those around them. They should be adaptable to various activities, from social events to exercise classes. Creating versatile spaces fosters a vibrant and connected community, allowing residents to seamlessly transition between different engaging activities.


Outdoor Amenities:

The great outdoors plays a crucial role in promoting an active and socially rich lifestyle among seniors. Including well-maintained gardens, walking paths, and dedicated areas for sports like pickleball or bocce ball are great ways to contribute not only to aesthetics but also encourage physical activity and engagement with the community around them.


Fitness and Wellness Facilities:

Equipping senior housing with fitness centers and exercise rooms is essential, but it’s more than that. These facilities should cater to a range of fitness levels and interests, providing opportunities for social interaction. This contributes to physical well-being and creates a sense of camaraderie among residents.


Safety and Security:

While prioritizing safety and security is non-negotiable, it’s important to address concerns about potential overemphasis. Striking the right balance between safety features and maintaining residents’ sense of independence is crucial. Developers should aim to create secure environments that empower residents rather than making them feel confined.

Designing Ageless Spaces

Seniors today resist the “senior” label and prefer living spaces that feel contemporary and modern rather than dated. To meet their expectations, innovative design concepts are needed. By incorporating timeless elements that transcend age and trends, senior housing can appeal to a wide range of tastes and preferences.

This design approach involves incorporating timeless elements with a contemporary twist. Neutral color palettes, ample natural light, and open floor plans contribute to a sense of spaciousness. The aim is to avoid a clinical aesthetic and opt for high-quality, durable materials that echo a residential feel.

Furthermore, ageless design means designing spaces with flexibility in mind. Residents may have changing needs, and the environment should adapt accordingly. The focus is on creating spaces that resonate with individuals at various stages of life, fostering a supportive environment regardless of age or ability.

A clubhouse restaurant at Wind Crest, an active-lifestyle Continuing Care Retirement Community in Highlands Ranch, CO.
A contemporary community space at Highland Springs, a Continuing Care Retirement Community in Dallas, TX.

Wellness-Focused Design:

A holistic approach to wellness is integral to designing for active senior living. This includes physical, mental, and social well-being.

Physical wellness is supported by fitness facilities and outdoor spaces promoting movement. Mental wellness is addressed through stimulating environments that include libraries, art studios, and game rooms. Social well-being is fostered by designing spaces that encourage social interaction, from communal dining areas to lounges.

By adopting a wellness-focused design, developers contribute to the overall health of seniors and create communities that are attractive to the modern senior demographic. The goal is to go beyond basic functionality and elevate the living experience to one that promotes a fulfilling and balanced lifestyle.

Outdoor Spaces:

The popularity of outdoor activities among seniors is rising, and senior housing design must accommodate this trend. One notable activity gaining traction is pickleball, the fastest-growing sport in the US right now.

Pickleball’s appeal lies in its accessibility and adaptability. Incorporating dedicated pickleball courts could meet the demand for outdoor recreational spaces and align with the active and social lifestyle that today’s seniors seek. Other outdoor spaces should cater to diverse interests, including well-maintained gardens, walking paths, and seating areas for recreation and relaxation.

Developers should view outdoor spaces as extensions of the living experience, carefully planned to enhance the overall well-being of seniors. By creating outdoor environments that cater to diverse interests, developers contribute to the sense of community and connection that is integral to modern senior living.

Pickleball courts at Eagle's Trace, a campus-style Continuing Care Retirement Community located on 70 acres in northwest Houston.

In conclusion, designing senior housing for active lifestyles requires a departure from traditional approaches. Developers must embrace a forward-thinking mindset that caters to the evolving preferences and desires of today’s seniors.

Key considerations include accessibility and universal design, creating multi-purpose community spaces, incorporating outdoor amenities, providing fitness and wellness facilities, and prioritizing safety and security. These elements form the foundation of senior housing that is not just age-appropriate but celebrates the vibrancy, diversity, and individuality of today’s seniors, all while managing practical concerns and ensuring inclusivity.