Long-term Care Design Trends

By Jessica Derynck, AIA LEED AP

The care of our senior community was radically altered with the advent of Social Security in 1936, which led to the creation of our country’s first nursing homes. Gone were the poor houses and sanitariums, and a new model of long-term care facilities was born. In 1965 the Medicare and Medicaid programs were created, which changed the amount of money people could spend on their long-term care housing. With each successive generation since, the design of long-term care facilities has continued to evolve.

At DSGW, we are on the forefront of that evolution, constantly monitoring trends and adapting environments to better suit the changing and developing needs of our aging communities. With an eye toward keeping people independent for longer, today’s advancements in long-term care design are rooted in breakthroughs in medicine and technology that are not only prolonging lives, but enhancing them.

Here are three current trends DSGW are monitoring in long-term care design and the positive impacts they make on residents.

“Small House” Model

Diamond Willow, Duluth, MN

The term is a bit of a misnomer, as it’s in reality a super-sized house, but this model is the current gold-standard for quality of care. These facilities max out at 12 private rooms and provide a shared dining and living space, with an open-concept kitchen where the same staff that cares for you cooks for you. These types of facilities ditch the institutional feel and replace it with cozy comfort, while giving residents the attention that comes from living with fewer people. And, while this model began in long-term senior care, it’s proven so successful that it’s been adopted by many veterans’ homes, behavioral health centers and short-term rehab facilities.

Hotel Design

Imagine that the last hotel room you stayed in transformed into a long-term care private room and you’ll have a good idea of how this design trend will shape future facilities. This will mean everything from a more restaurant-like feel to the dining area (with multiple seating options) to outlets strategically placed just where you’ll need them. Even amenities like room service will be part of this design implementation, all out of a need to make sure that rooms are better, not bigger, which is ideal for the care of long-term patient.

Wellness Programs

Benedictine Health System, Long-term Rehab Facility, Duluth, MN

Improving the design of long-term care facilities doesn’t stop at the physical structures. Some facilities incorporate wellness programs that nurture mind, body and soul. As medicine and technology lets us live longer, more active lives, long-term facilities are responding by providing amenities for their more active residents. This includes gyms and rehab spaces, but also continuing education classes on-site and plentiful opportunities to get out into the community to volunteer or enjoy entertainment.

As the Baby Boomer generation retires, firms like DSGW will continue to adapt long-term care facilities to promote greater independence for longer periods of time, as well as a high-quality standard of living, all while remaining focused on how to provide dignified care for an expanding aging population.