Zimmerman Welschmeyer Architects, Elders Inn

Elders Inn – Alameda, California
Zimmerman Welschmeyer Architects – San Francisco, California
Type of Facility/Setting: Assisted Living

Facility Contact: Chris Zimmerman

Firm: Zimmerman Welschmeyer Architects, (415) 227-1430, ext. 17

Design Team: Jeff Zimmerman, Architect/Developer (Zimmerman Welschmeyer Architects); Chris Zimmerman, Operator/Developer (Waters Edge, Inc.); Michael Dugan, Development Senior Consultant/Developer (Living for Seniors)

Photography: Michael O’Callahan Photography

Resident Capacity: 60 (52 units)

Space/Resident (sq. ft.): 365

Total Area (sq. ft.): 31,000

Total Cost (excluding land): $4 million

Cost/Sq. Ft.: $130

Completion: January 2001

The deep need for a new kind of elder care inspired the creation and design of this project. From the street it appears to be a lovely inn rather than a medical facility, yet inside there are full services for seniors with dementia, as well as those simply in need of medical assistance for daily living.

The community wanted the project to blend into an eclectic neighborhood of homes and businesses. The operators of the facility wanted affordability, a small scale and a sense of beauty in the living environment. The solution was to nestle the building onto the site to create a series of courtyards and gardens. A half-century-old brick wall offers old-world charm along the view corridor.

Residents’ rooms are designed for maximum efficiency, safety and manageability. There are 40 private-studio assisted living units featuring mini-kitchens, keyless entry, wireless emergency call and spacious toilet rooms.

Neighborhood clusters share family rooms and dining spaces. The compact design makes it easy for the frail elderly to maneuver successfully. Neighborhoods also contain bathing rooms for private, safe assisted bathing and grooming.

The 12-unit dementia care neighborhood offers the same comforts, but with extra attention to how the psychology of space impacts the residents. The area is designed to feel like home and offers numerous visual cues for wayfinding. Well-distributed lighting eliminates disturbing shadows. Multiple gathering areas allow flexibility. An inviting “front door” leads to a contained courtyard. The staff and family entry is understated but electronically controlled.

The overall goal of this project’s planners and designers was to serve the urgent needs of aging elders with an affordable option. The result is a building that provides an uplifting environment, a sense of beauty in daily living, safety and high-level care, all at rates well below the standard market level.

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