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The New Look in Senior Living: Two Approaches Toward Social Interaction

October 1, 2006
by Long-Term Living Editors
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Based on interviews with architects Dan Rosenthal, The Lawrence Group Architects, and Steve Brown, Bernardon Haber Holloway Architects, PC

The new look in senior living:
Two approaches toward social interaction

Based on interviews with Dan Rosenthal, Principal and Director of the Senior Living Group, The Lawrence Group Architects; and Steve Brown, Associate and Project Director, Bernardon Haber Holloway Architects, PC

Whether building a grand-scale CCRC or a budget-friendly assisted living facility, an emphasis on social interaction is key. Two very different designs-one a project in progress and the other new construction-both place an emphasis on social interaction among residents, as well as interaction between residents and the greater community. The Stratford at WestClay, part of The Village at WestClay in Carmel, Indiana, and Meadow Ridge Assisted Living Facility at Willow Valley in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, showcase current design trends in senior housing. They define their campuses with opportunities for social and physical activities to enhance the mind and body. The Village at WestClay, a traditional neighborhood development, recalls a 19th century main street and its surrounding community. With its Arts and Crafts style, Willow Valley is nestled in the Pennsylvania countryside, reminiscent of an early'20th century country estate. The catalysts behind these projects recently explained their designs-and the reasons behind them-to Nursing Homes/Long Term Care Management.

Dan Rosenthal is a Principal and Director of the Senior Living Group at The Lawrence Group Architects, the architectural designer of The Stratford at WestClay. An upscale retirement community located within The Village of WestClay, a traditional neighborhood development in Carmel, Indiana, The Stratford at WestClay is scheduled for completion in October 2007.

  Traditional neighborhood developments (TNDs) are a response to new urbanist philosophies. Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk and AndrTs Duany, who've been really at the forefront of new urbanism, designed one of the first new urbanist communities in the country, called Seaside, in Florida (The Truman Show was filmed at Seaside). It really is a wonderful community, and it incorporates a lot of the ideals of new urbanism.   Post'World War II America evolved with a reliance on the automobile. Through a combination of flight from urban areas that were perceived as being high crime areas, and because of the freedom afforded by the automobile, we developed suburban communities. As a result, we spread our resources far across the landscape. People still worked in a downtown area, but they might have lived an hour away-so you get this fragmented society. You break down the bonds of community that really served the country very well in an earlier time. Hearken back to the turn of the 20th century, and you see the main streets in small towns and communities functioning very well. People lived close to where they worked, they lived close to where they recreated, and there was a real sense of community. In addition, the public spaces were "activated" by restaurants and retail, as well as dense housing, as Jane Jacobs, the well-known writer, activist, and student of successful urban environments noted in her work, which includes The Death and Life of Great American Cities and The Economy of Cities.

We blame the automobile for a lot of this fragmentation. New urbanism tries to integrate the automobile into our high-tech environment, our modern society, so that the car is really not the dominant element in our community. The development of narrower streets slows down the automobile and makes public ways more pedestrian-friendly. Trying to create diversity within a community prevents having a large residential community on one side of town and a large commercial community on the other side of town. You want people to be able to walk to work. You want diversity not just in function, but also in the types of housing available. You also want urban activity over a more extended portion of the day.