Takeaways, Trends, and a View of Tomorrow

Recapping the 2018 Environments for Aging Conference & Expo

Earlier this year, operators, planners, and design professionals from around the country converged in Savannah, GA for the annual Environments for Aging Expo & Conference. The event was packed with education, networking, new products, and trends. Most importantly, however, was the shared passion for the care of our elder community. Associate John Ferguson attended the conference and brought back five key takeaways from the event, as well as a host of enthusiasm for Kahler Slater’s unique ability to impact the future of senior living design.

1. It’s about living, not aging.

While care continuums are expanding, and hospitality offerings continue to arrive in the market, it is critical to remember that today’s residents are looking for a home. We’re seeing the “institutional feel” diminishing, indoor/outdoor connections becoming more widespread, and support spaces are moving from focal points to back-of-house. The bottom line: for residents, it’s about living, not aging, which is why the resident unit will remain the critical differentiator for providers now and in the future.

2. Assuming seniors want to live exclusively with other seniors is the wrong assumption, but one the industry has done little to correct.

There is a wealth of data being used by the development community showing Baby Boomers are leaving the suburbs for the denser, urban neighborhoods of downtowns. Empty nesters are moving in droves in search of variety, vibrancy, and walkability – all fantastic things for long-term health! It’s choices like these that show us the next elder generation has a desire to connect with their community in broader and deeper ways. The opportunity for growth in the urban fabric is here, and the market is poised for growth in all levels of care.

3. Baby Boomers, the new market disruptors.

Ready or not, the Baby Boomers are here and with them begins a new stage of market disruption. Baby Boomers are showing strong preferences for smaller communities, renting rather than owning, the option of frequent travel between communities within their provider network, and wellness as a key offering for resident engagement. While each new trend presents challenges, there are ample rewards for developers and operators who are looking to meet and exceed these expectations.

4. It’s time to embrace experience living, not managed living.

More than ever, consumers are seeking total experiences – and this includes older adults. While Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs) and resort-style facilities have used this strategy for years, the time has come for facilities of all sizes and levels of care to consider the relationship between programming and physical space. In this approach, we triumph over the stigma of isolation by creating active environments, and the clients we’re partnering are already seeing powerful results.

5. Visual cueing – the new design standard in memory care.

Memory care was such a popular topic in speaker proposals this year that Environments for Aging organizers decided to make it an entire educational track. As demand grows for additional memory care services, developers, providers, and designers from around the country rushed to attend sessions in search for ways to answer the call. While for many facilities, increases to square footage and universal design will inevitably be implemented, there are clear, visual solutions that every facility can adopt. This includes low-glare surfaces, wall color by floor, indirect lighting, and many, many more. Let us help!