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Layout and Design Considerations for Retirement Communities
An important trend in residential and community design is the emerging interest in age restricted projects. Retirement communities are specifically targeted to people over the age of 65 who want to relocate to surroundings which focus on convenience and quality of life. The special needs of this age group demand critical thinking when planning the layout of the facilities as well as the design of individual housing units and common spaces.
Most clients will be keenly interested in the available facilities of your project. Medical support is of prime importance, so if you do not plan to have a tertiary care medical facility within your compound, consider having at least secondary or primary care readily available. In these instances a well-equipped tertiary care hospital should not be too far away.
Commercial areas where residents can purchase necessities such as food, prescriptions, and common household items should be incorporated. Residents will appreciate easily accessible restaurants and cafes to break the monotony of home cooking. Alternatively, a system which allows easy contact with delivery from outside establishments should be in place.
Age-specific Design Considerations.
Both common and private areas should be designed with the special needs of older individuals in mind. Wider access paths are necessary when they need to be negotiated with walkers, wheelchairs, or human assistance. Warning and directional signs should be large and easy to read. Pathways must be designed with gentle slopes, non-slip surfaces, and frequent rest areas.
Older individuals generally prefer one-story housing, however, well maintained elevators of a good size are an acceptable alternative. Focused group discussions reveal that most people want wide airy spaces, with adequate lighting. Numerous rails and handholds must be in place. Doorknobs, windows, drawers and cabinet pulls should all be easy to grasp for arthritic hands.
The social aspect is an important consideration in these projects. Gerontologic health is closely linked to social integration, so there must be ample opportunities for residents to socialize. This mandates not only such first level social areas such as clubhouse or common recreational and sports areas. Though must be put into designing common areas to encourage socialization.
The major dilemma is how to balance appropriately interspersed social areas while maintaining a sense of spaciousness and privacy. Housing that is too close together feels safer, but may be agoraphobic. Domiciles that are too far apart make social calls difficult as they discourage ambulation. A balance must be struck between the need for time alone and the need for interaction.
This is still an important consideration, but should take a back seat to other concerns. This does not mean that you should take the lazy route and go for institutionalized or ultraconservative design. Remember that this industry is highly competitive and if all other things are equal, then the way your project looks will factor greatly in the success of the endeavor.
A beautiful location is always a great starting point. Most seniors want retirement communities to be somewhere warm, preferably in proximity to lakes or the ocean. That being said, a beautiful mountainous region may also hold some appeal. Though a somewhat conservative overall feel may keep from alienating individuals of an earlier generation, there is something to be said about the excitement that can be generated by a modern design.
Remember that good taste transcends age and upbringing.