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How to design homes for life well beyond 100

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The world is getting older. By 2050, the global population of people in their 80s will be three times what it is today. According to the Stanford Center on Longevity, half of all the 5-year-olds currently living in the U.S. can expect to make it into their 100s. Harvard Medical School aging researcher David Sinclair suggests that the first person to live to age 150 has already been born.

It’s too early to predict all the ways that longer lives will change society, but at least one industry is starting to make some guesses. The developers, designers, and operators of senior housing are thinking about and planning for how these demographic shifts will affect their businesses and the services they provide.

To get ahead of the curve, some are designing their facilities for people who will technically be seniors for more than 40 years. They’re learning from communities around the world where people tend to live the longest and reconsidering the golf courses and bingo halls that were once central leisure activities. They’re also trying to design features that enable people to be healthy and active as long as possible.

Inspirata Pointe at Royal Oak in Sun City, Arizona [Image: courtesy Perkins Eastman]It’s a dramatic change from the last-stop nature of retirement communities of the recent past. If people will soon be living many more years in homes and communities long assumed to have a quick turnover, the way these spaces are planned and built will have to change.

Senior housing is already a diverse industry, with distinct segments catering to different age groups and health conditions. There are the 55-plus and active adult communities where golf, pickleball, singles scenes, and even Jimmy Buffet-inspired lifestyles are main draws. Others are more focused on healthcare for the aging, including assisted-living developments that have moderate levels of in-community or in-home care, and memory care facilities that have live-in staff. There’s even a growing number of so called life-plan communities that offer all tiers of independence and care within the same space.

Many expect the industry to get more diverse in its offerings as the pool of older people grows and their lives last longer. One new offering that could emerge to meet the demographic shift is multigenerational senior housing.

“There might be a 100-year-old, an 80-year-old, and maybe a 60-year-old all from the same family, all living in the same environment,” says Joe Hassel, senior living leader at Perkins Eastman, an architecture and design firm with offices around the world.

Inspirata Pointe at Royal Oak [Image: courtesy Perkins Eastman]Hassel says his team has been studying what are known as Blue Zones, or places around the world that have high rates of people living long, healthy lives. Ranging from Okinawa, Japan, to Sardinia, Italy, these places share several characteristics that seem to influence longer living. Some are related to physical activity and diets of fresh food; others are related to community and social elements, from having regular contact with neighbors to a kind of ingrained happy hour that Blue Zones researchers call “Wine at 5.”

“The environment supports healthy eating, active fitness, and community involvement. So we want to take those key definitions of why those environments are successful and why people are aging into their 100s and........

© Fast Company

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