10 Residential Architecture Trends Coming To Senior Housing

10 BIG Design Trends coming soon to Senior Housing

Jessica Mairs, of www.dezeen.com, recently summarized ten big design trends in custom residential architecture. The current buyers of custom homes are the next cohort of high-end senior living. Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs) or Life Plan Communities need to be preparing for the oncoming wave of the high-income baby boomer cohort. This is what’s coming to senior housing sooner rather than later. Here’s our take on Jessica’s list as it applies to senior living.

1. Minimalist interiors.

Sleek and modern is back in style. It’s the experience of light and natural materials and not an overabundance of stuff. The baby boomers grew up on mid-century modern and Scandinavian design. For boomers, it’s a return to their roots.

2. Prefabricated.

Modular can be both cost-effective and aesthetically pleasing. Factory construction solves the chronic labor shortage in skilled construction trades. Expect key components to increasingly be pre-fabricated modular solutions, and not site-built.

3. Co-living.

Shared life/work spaces and shared housing are emerging as cost-effective solutions for cash-strapped residents. This trend started with millennials but it’s the perfect solution for aging boomers. The middle market’s cost of living is rising faster than income. Co-living or cooperative housing options will grow as boomers look to stretch limited savings and extend productive work lives. It also complements boomers’ smaller families and divorce rates.

4. Shingled exteriors.

Overlapping shingles are old technology being given new life with designers using both traditional wood shakes and innovative new materials like overlapping metal panels for rain walls. Designers are also playing with scale. New shingles aren’t limited to seven-inch reveals.

5. Charred timber.

The use of fire to char and harden wood is a traditional Japanese building technique – shou sugi ban. Whether as an accent or in exposed structural members or in weather-exposed siding, charred timber is catching on both for aesthetic character and durability.

6. Traditional fronts w/ contemporary interiors.

The urban trend of preserving historic street facades is cross-fertilizing with minimalist interiors to blend the old with the new. Interior spaces and additions need not match traditional streetscapes. Eclectic is the new rule.

7. Sustainability.

Boomers care about the environment and their net impact. Sustainable design is a saleable benefit in senior housing. Efficiency and alternative energy reduce future cash flow demands. Environmentally responsible sourcing will increasingly be the minimum expectation of the emerging boomer cohort.

8. Studios.

A creative parallel of the tiny house movement in residential architecture is the emergence of the stand alone studio space to foster creativity and connection with nature. The concept of the studio embodies the boomer ideals. Senior living design must deliver this same sense of artistic possibility to hit the baby boomers’ emotional chords.

9. Skinny skyscrapers.

New urban skyscrapers are increasingly for housing and not office space. Skyscrapers are now residential architecture as much as commercial architecture. Going up and not out is already an emerging trend in urban senior housing. (See our article on The Admiral, a Kendal project on Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive.) Skinny exploits even small sites and maximizes views. Seniors love views connecting them with nature, whether the greenery of gardens and trees or the weather horizon. If you’re an urban dweller the sky is your connection to nature.

10. New Construction Materials and Techniques.

The robots are coming to construction too. Masonry laid by or concrete laid down by giant 3D robotic printers are no longer science fiction. New materials like carbon fiber or highly engineered lumber components are making construction stronger, lighter and more energy efficient. To both command buyers’ attention and to stay cost competitive, designers will not be able to coast on the, “We’ve always done it that way,” construction details. Staying current on emerging materials and techniques will be essential for success in senior living housing developments.

Residential Architecture

Add these trends to the list of things to watch. Custom residential architecture is a good predictor for expectations of upper-middle-class to wealthy CCRC buyers of the future. We already see the strong influence of New Urbanism, Pocket Neighborhoods (Ross Chapin), and the Not so Big House (Sarah Susanka) – all prior calls as emerging trends.



Add yours

  1. Great article! Thank you for all the work you put in.
    I like the idea of co-living!

  2. Extraordinary article! Much obliged to you for all the work you put in.

    I like the possibility of co-living!
    Amelia Raymen recently posted…Post Covid Reflections on the Urban DevelopmentMy Profile

  3. Seriously a good idea! ideal and quite creative!
    Amelia Raymen recently posted…Post Covid Reflections on the Urban DevelopmentMy Profile

    • Appreciate the feedback from someone who cares about design for better living. Enjoyed your article on Post COVID Reflections on the Urban Development. Consumers, workers, and employers are all going to look at urban infrastructure differently in light of the COVID experience. There may need to be some conscious rebuilding of lost capacity to restore the urban magnet. Think restaurants lost the pandemic. But love your exploration of how office design might change to respond to new perceptions of risk. Love your hypothetical tower’s outdoor spaces perimeter. Dubai has some unique opportunities with its year-around coastal climate that Minneapolis or Chicago can’t match. Dubai is already known for stunning architecture. This is another example of design responding to needs.

  4. A primer on current shingle options: steel, copper, zinc, and stone. What you want to realize to rent those current substances on your project. I talk the fabric homes of each, layout considerations, set up caveats imparting examples of each. Architects featured (in order): Carney Logan Burke, Lake | Flato, Sage Modern achitecture. thanks for the blog by the way
    Kerry Fendley recently posted…What You Should Consider After An Asphalt Paving ProjectMy Profile

    • Metal roofing is making a big comeback and cedar shake is going out of fashion. Partly due to fire risk and partly because of relative longevity. Love a great sanding seam metal roof.

  5. I totally agree with the part where you mentioned that a lot of people from the boomer generation care about the environment. My aunt is one of them and really wants to live closer to the natural world once she retires. Maybe she should consult an expert in organic architecture and let them come up with a house design that would suit her desired lifestyle.

    • Connections with nature only increase in importance as we age. Blue spaces and green spaces (water and plants) engage us in the cycles of nature. And lend both comfort and perspective. We’re surprised that environmentally conscious design and construction isn’t a bigger trend in senior housing. Energy efficiency and green building are important to us as consumers. And we don’t feel that different than other Boomers.

  6. A few years ago we were looking for a senior housing san diego community for dad and so glad we found Silvergate. He has now been there since 2017 and I have never seen him happier since mom passed. It’s a wonderful place with great staff and our family couldn’t be more thankful.

    • Thank you for the share! As a couple, we both had parents with positive experiences in great facilities with caring staff. That’s not the universal experience, hence they need to shop with eyes wide open to find the best and avoid the rest. But when you or a family member is in a great senior living community? It is a joy and a relief. We’ll look at Silvergate! Great tip.

  7. Great collection of ideas! Indeed, these are worthwhile trends that people should consider. Despite the changes in the construction industry these days, still, with the right planning, it could work. Although it may really pose a challenge at this time.
    United Hoist recently posted…Modular Construction: Environmental Construction on the RiseMy Profile

    • We’ve got our fingers crossed for new construction methods to address the affordability crisis. All sorts of technological changes in both materials and methods just getting ready for primetime. Like modular construction (your article), 3D printing, and robotic assembly (e.g., robotic block/bricklayers). Exciting stuff.

  8. It got me when you said that timber is durable and aesthetic while being a traditional design technique from the Japanese culture. I guess I want that kind of design for my house since my husband and I have both been fascinated by their culture. It will be exciting to allot one room in the house with timber as the main theme of the materials, so I hope to buy some this week.

    • Cultural fusion is part of American culture and design. We like to borrow ideas from around the world. Shou sugi ban (焼杉板) originated in Japan in the 18th century to treat cedar siding to make it even more weatherproof and durable. Shou sugi ban chars the oiled wood surface to protect the inner wood fibers. It makes the wood a deep charcoal-black but with the wood grain still obvious. It’s a popular treatment for contemporary exteriors and indoor furnishings alike, especially in minimalist or modern designs.

  9. Before you decide to begin a residential or commercial building project, it is a must to be fully aware of the process. When you gain awareness of how such a building project is to be carried out, it will be much simpler to manage a smooth job with no necessary hassle.
    commercial builders Lismore recently posted…Is Extending Your Home the Best Option?My Profile

  10. Thanks for sharing the relevant article.
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    • Creating community is the most important element of successful senior living communities, but good design can make that easier. Thanks for the feedback.

  11. Interesting insights! I have to agree that these trends are worthwhile and a lot of companies have been observing these in their projects. Now, the struggle that the construction industry has been facing is the continuous increase in material cost. On top of that, manpower is scarce. As such, even senior housing construction has slowed down. Although companies are looking forward to better outcome moving forward.
    David Rowe recently posted…Handling Variables: From Process to Construction Hoists and LiftsMy Profile

    • David at unitedhoistinc@gmail.com, if we were writing this today, I’d say that design is going to be influenced by: availability of product and the product’s ability to save on both installation and operating labor. The pandemic is messing with both labor markets and supply chains.

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