While the high-end assisted living market was booming a decade ago, the housing market crash several years back, combined with aging in place trends, has produced very a different situation in 2013. Of course, the baby boomers—also known as the “silver tsunami”—are still a significant percentage of the population, but elders are generally moving into long-term care facilities at a more advanced age, creating a more compressed marketplace.

“Boomers are older and frailer, and thus stay for shorter periods,” explains J. David Hoglund, principal and executive director, Perkins Eastman (Pittsburgh). “The same apartment or room will ‘turn over’ more frequently and serve many more older adults over a 5-to-10-year period.”

In addition, skilled nursing and memory care facilities are more in demand, while assisted living and continuing care retirement communities are targeting underserved niche markets and, therefore, are growing at a slower rate.

With a more competitive marketplace, senior living developers are being forced to simultaneously attract residents with appealing designs and amenities, while keeping efficiencies and costs in check.

“As the cost of care continues to increase, companies are looking for ways to create environments that are more repetitive in layout, and offer a more effective use of space and function where staff can be utilized to their maximum potential,” explains George M. Johnson, senior client manager, Smith Seckman Reid (Nashville, Tenn.).

Of course, seniors and their children—who are much more involved in their parents’ choices than previously—are still looking for ample social, cultural, and recreational activities in their new residences.

Consequently, “In addition to multiple dining venues, movie theaters, and multipurpose activity spaces that can be changed to support a specific interest, it’s not uncommon to see a spa, upscale salon, billiard room/men's club, wood shop, art/pottery room, and/or an ice cream social area,” says Joe Zody, senior living leader, DLR Group (Portland).


For more in-depth coverage of long-term care market, design and technology trends, see “Healthcare Design For The Ages.”