Seniors want fitness and style: Citation of Merit winner Friendship Village Fitness Center, Bloomington, Minn.

The Fitness Center is the new centerpiece of Friendship Village, a continuing care retirement community. The 30-year-old community prides itself in promoting physical fitness—both as a means of helping residents retain their independence as well as for the social benefits that come from a community based on wellness.

Upgrading the physical fitness facilities at Friendship Village was important in meeting the needs of current residents and in attracting new ones. Friendship Village had seen a steady increase in participation in fitness classes over the years, but its original facilities limited the number and kinds of activities the community could provide. Also, current and prospective residents told administrators that they were looking for a newer and more contemporary facility.

Friendship Village turned to Tremain Architects & Planners, St. Paul, Minn., to create its new fitness center after its administrators took note of another Tremain project, the fitness center at Friendship Haven in Ft. Dodge, Iowa (a Citation of Merit winner, 2007). “I had just completed that fitness center and it was becoming apparent how important these facilities were to a contemporary CCRC,” says Dale Tremain, principal.

Environments for Aging 2012 Citation of Merit Winners

With creative solutions to design and healthcare challenges, four projects inspired Environments for Aging’s annual design competition this year. A panel of 16 esteemed jurors—architects, interior designers, care providers and educators—evaluated the nominees for this year’s top honors.

We’ll be featuring a winner a day this week. We hope you’ll be inspired by these exemplary examples of environments for aging. 

A saltwater swimming and therapy pool is the centerpiece of the $6.6 million, 34,378-square-foot facility. A corner of the pool is constructed for rehabilitation suspension therapy. Designed for seniors and safety, the soft surface of the pool deck is made of anti-slip and sound-absorbing materials. The water temperature is kept higher for the seniors’ comfort, and the pool features a salt water purification system that is gentler than chlorine. Flat walking lanes feature hand rails and uniform depth for safety. The fitness center also features an exercise studio with adjustable lighting for activities ranging from peaceful meditation to high-energy aerobics. The window-lit cardio and strength-training gym features space to work alone as well as an area to consult with a personal trainer.

Fun recreational amenities, some suggested by carefully assembled focus groups early in the project, include a golf simulator, a nine-hole putting green and a complimentary therapy suite for massage, aroma and light therapy.

Other features include a café and a resource center for health and fitness information. An enclosed courtyard with a large, dramatic a fireplace hosts outdoor classes and socializing. 

“I think the connection to the outdoors was the thing I brought in that no one expected,” Tremain says. “The spaces left over provided ways of connecting people together. The connection to the outdoors goes throughout the whole project,” he says.

Tremain says the greatest challenge in designing the fitness center was its small site. “It was very constrained,” he says. “We had to squeeze it between two existing buildings, so we didn’t have many options about how to configure the building. Quite honestly, I wasn’t sure we’d accomplish it at all in the early stages.”

Moreover, residents in one of the adjacent apartment buildings were worried about the proximity of the new structure. Tremain provided them with sunlight and green space, however, by carefully designing the rooftop for the fitness center and by creating a courtyard visible from the facing units. “We’re proud that we stepped up to that challenge, and now those apartments have some of the highest-valued views in the community," he adds.

Tremain says he is most pleased with the function of the facility. Striking design and comfortable gathering spots encourage socializing while courtyards and easy access to outside spaces promote outdoor activities. As for his favorite design element, Tremain says it’s the high, clerestory-lit corridor that connects the program components of the building.

“I like the way one part or function relates to another and creates those connections that we were trying to achieve,” Tremain says. Moreover, he adds, “I also like that we’ve corrected a misconception about what appeals to older people. They appreciate good design and contemporary design more than some people realize.”

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