Design for Future Seniors

by Jeff Shaw

Tomorrow’s seniors will want flexibility, privacy and intergenerational living.

By Marissa Kasdan, KTGY Architecture + Planning

Seniors housing, as a market segment, has had a relatively limited history in the United States.

Early examples of seniors housing were for those that experienced extreme poverty due to the loss of personal wealth during the Great Depression. Following the implementation of the Social Security Act, the private nursing home industry experienced tremendous growth during the second half of the 20th century. With the addition of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965, national nursing home chains gained widespread prevalence.

As a large population of Baby Boomers benefits from health and medical advancements resulting in longer lifespans, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration of Aging predicts that 20 percent of the U.S. population will be over the age 65 by the year 2030.

While the senior demographic has historically been regarded as a singular group, the new and upcoming population of seniors encompasses an age range of 30 or more years and includes adults currently living in diverse community types and experiencing a wide range of service needs.

The growth of active adult housing, service-enriched housing, assisted living, memory care and hospice care all reflect these unique and growing needs, but raises the question: “How can we continue designing housing for this demographic as one, singular group, while restricting the wide range of needs and priorities they exhibit?”

KTGY’s R+D Studio studied current seniors housing developments and found opportunities for new submarkets within the seniors housing market that can directly appeal to the diverse and changing needs of current and future seniors. After identifying prospective gaps in the market, we developed a variety of new residential prototypes designed to consider the range of needs for the growing senior demographic:

  • Ensemble

    Ensemble: a lower-density solution of two- and four-unit townhomes, built back-to-back to encourage a multigenerational community. By combining a range of unit sizes oriented around a shared, semi-private courtyard, families can maintain individual privacy while still living in proximity to aging relatives.

  • Next Steps

    Next Steps: a housing concept combining services, amenities and ranging levels of care for seniors preferring to live in urban areas. As their needs change over time, seniors can move within the building without requiring relocation to an entirely new community.

  • Co-Care: a co-living residential concept fully incorporating the services of assisted living communities with the health and social benefits of increased community engagement. Small, four-bedroom units include dual points of access and sliding


    walls to provide additional privacy. The community’s large, shared courtyard, dining room and multi-purpose flex space encourage social interaction and reduced isolation.

Recent advancements in medicine and technology have provided current and future seniors the ability to experience their later years with more vigor and freedom than any previous generation of seniors.

We can’t expect seniors to adapt to accept the seniors housing options available to them. The design community has a growing opportunity to adapt residential solutions to provide thoughtful and varied housing designs in the hope that seniors will discover the living situation that supports and encourages their best life.

Marissa Kasdan is Director, Design for KTGY Architecture + Planning’s R+D Studio.

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