We live in a world of constant change and evolution, and the world of independent living communities is no different.
Independent living communities, residential areas for seniors with both a communal atmosphere and private accommodations, come in all forms. There are establishments with more hands-on staffing to ones with much greater autonomy. But, regardless of the type, many of these communities are taking innovative leaps to make their living spaces both more comfortable and more enjoyable for residents.
Veering from the blueprint of traditional senior living, new community trends seek to reduce isolation, increase social activity, and, overall, make independent living more affordable and more appealing for aging individuals.
The goal of these facilities is to make the transition from home to community as seamless as possible. They help residents live among the same comforts, amenities, and independence as they did while living at home.
Hey … this isn’t your grandmother’s independent living community.
To help keep their residents self-sufficient, many independent living communities are building their campuses near urban developments. Residents have easy access to public shopping, regular events, and other community offerings – often without the need for a car. They aim to help seniors maintain their communal lifestyle, instead of feeling isolated.
And another perk of a more urban location? The dining options! Many independent living communities of the past provided a daily three-meal option to all residents, included in the cost of living. But nowadays, they’re switching gears and making an effort to break free from the food monotony. Many are set up in a location intentionally close to local restaurants for a wider variety of dining options. And though they still provide onsite meals, residents have the option to sign up for a meal plan (yes, like the ones in college). This flexibility also helps to free up the staffing needs of the establishment, which can, in turn, lower the cost of residency.
Break Out of the Silo: Intergenerationality
The word is a mouthful and spell check certainly doesn’t like it, but independent living communities are starting to recognize and prioritize the importance of intergenerationality.
To avoid the feeling of social isolation, the new trend in independent living works to set up their spaces to incorporate more generational engagement. They’re finding creative ways to incorporate a younger, more diverse age presence into their residents’ daily lives.
Many will connect with local schools to get students involved in programming. Nearby elementary schools may come in to perform their class plays for residents. Some facilities even link up with local high schools and colleges to set up mentor programs between the students and residents.
One big trend has brought daycares into independent living communities. Across the country, establishments are combining those they serve in order to put a diverse age range under one roof. They are giving toddlers and seniors a chance to interact with an entirely different generation.
Additionally, in an effort to bring in family as often as possible, many independent living communities host neighborhood cookouts and concerts for residents and relatives.
The Life-Changing Magic of Multipurpose Rooms
These days, many communities are Marie Kondo-ing their communal rooms to ensure a better and more frequent use of all space. Instead of having common rooms within designated for one specific use, communal spaces are now being designed to be more adaptable. What was a church sanctuary in the morning is a jazzercise studio in the afternoon. A bingo hall last night is a private dinner space for a visiting family. That post-lunch arts and crafts is now a holiday party venue.
An empty room can set a more isolated tone within the building. But regular activity and interaction breathes life into the space, giving a more vibrant buzz around the entire campus.
Set the Mood
Design is becoming a more integral aspect of planning an independent living community as well. Veering away from the stuffy, stereotypical atmosphere of a senior center, communities seek to set a more warm and inviting tone. Many are even taking notes from the hospitality industry, designing their aesthetic to resemble that of a hotel (or even a cruise ship!).
And outside? Designers focus in on the importance of fresh air and the great outdoors for residents and visitors; communal outdoor spaces are now more spacious, more useable, and more inviting. Many communities also incorporate entertainment venues, like stages and amphitheaters, onto their outside grounds.
Keep Your Mind – and Your Body – Active
Staying active is a vital part in successful aging; independent living communities are beginning to change their activities to reflect that. No longer do the only entertainment options consist of bridge groups and bingo nights. There are now a wide variety of social engagements offered to residents.
Some, for example, offer onsite exercise classes like water aerobics and yoga; or social events like book clubs and art demos. Many independent living communities also offer off-campus entertainment, shuttling residents to concerts, plays, museums, and other various excursions.
We live in a highly experience-based culture, and life experiences don’t (and shouldn’t!) end as we age.
And these days, the sky’s the limit. “There’s a false understanding that people over 75 don’t have aspirations anymore,” says Aaron D’Costa, chief operating officer of Florida-based Symerica Senior Living on SeniorHousingNews.com. “We had a 91-year-old resident who said she wanted to go skydiving, so we made that happen. You have to look much further past the walker and wheelchair.”