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Designing tomorrow's senior environments

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Eleven architecture and design experts, three editors, four conference planning team members and one (very long) day. I took part in a cross-curriculum committee that met in Baltimore this past Friday with a sole task: to sort through all the submitted presentations and decide which ones were worthy of inclusion for the 2015 Environments for Aging (EFA) Conference.

The advanced degrees, certifications and credentials filled the room and spilled out the doorway—AIA, LEED AP, dementia design specialists, senior living consultants and PhD gerontologists. Not to mention Kristin Zeit (editor-in-chief of Healthcare Design and Environments for Aging), Jennifer Kovacs-Silvis (executive editor of Healthcare Design and Environments for Aging) and yours truly.

The annual EFA Conference is a literal mind-meld of the country’s leading architects, designers and land planners of senior living spaces. They are the experts who research, design, plan and build/renovate the campuses and facilities in which providers work and deliver care every day.

Although the EFA Conference began (back in 2009) primarily as an educational and networking forum for architects, designers and vendors of senior living’s physical environments, these days the conference has grown to embrace the crucial component of providers—owners, operators and caregivers—all of whom are themselves becoming increasingly involved in the renovation and construction decisions being planned at their senior care sites.

More than 80 educational sessions had been submitted for consideration for the 2015 conference, and it was our group task to choose the very best 45 or so. The committee was in unanimous agreement about some submissions, whereas other submissions sparked vibrant debate. We discussed the submitted material, the conference format and the possible session topic tracks.

Every presentation was examined for its contribution to advancing knowledge, the depth of its material and its application in real life. In every case, it was a room-wide discussion and not just a “vote.” In every case, we asked, “Does this presentation truly raise the bar on the educational aspect of the conference?”

The hot topics that emerged from the submitted presentations (because I know you’re wondering)"?


Pamela Tabar


Pamela Tabar


Pamela Tabar is editor-in-chief of I Advance Senior Care. She has worked as a writer...



I would like to see a gerontologist added to your cross-curriculum committee. There are many housing specialists in the academic community who would be helpful to the committee by providing an additional point of view.

Thank you.

Hi Sherry, yes, we have had a gerontologist on the committee for several years. It's a crucial perspective.