The Environments for Aging (EFA) Conference, which took place in New Orleans last week, brings together designers, architects, builders, owners and healthcare practitioners for three days of education and networking in order to share innovative ideas and best practices. The conference’s education sessions offer something for each of its diverse attendees, through multiple tracks such as advancements in care, emerging trends, innovations in technology and design, remodeling and repositioning, and codes and standards.
Although this may seem like a niche area of design, according to The Urban Institute, “the number of Americans ages 65 and older will more than double over the next 40 years, reaching 80 million in 2040. The number of adults ages 85 and older, the group most often needing help with basic personal care, will nearly quadruple between 2000 and 2040.” EFA conference presentations were infused with a future-focus on how all environments — not only residences and senior housing, but retail stores, workplaces and public spaces — should evolve to meet new preferences and needs of an aging population.
In one session focused on trends and new opportunities in design, Lorraine Hiatt, PhD, pointed out that many seniors define themselves as active … yet their spaces are often designed for more sedentary lifestyles. She recommends designing flexible buildings and spaces that will change over time to meet needs of occupants at specific (and likely predictable) life stages. Hiatt also suggested a focus on sustainability and self-help when thinking about how to design these spaces.
Another trend discussed is intergenerational sites, in which projects layer all ages in multi-use buildings that include services relevant to all tenants such as classrooms, retail shops and pharmacies. Hiatt pointed out that in many of the projects she’s seen, she sees an increased need for interior designers. This is an opportunity for ASID members who are already designing for an aging population (and those who want to!) to show the value of design by creating spaces that not only provide care but vitality.
Troy Adkins is VP of Member and Industry Development for ASID.