Senior Living Design Trends: Flexibility Comes First

Rockland Berg, the architect behind the Dallas-based firm called three, elaborates on the main design elements for modern, attractive senior housing communities.
Rockland Berg, Principal, three. Image courtesy of three

The aging population has generated increased demand and major shifts in the senior living sector. Architects and developers approach assisted living from a hospitality standpoint due to the operational character of these projects, tailoring amenities and services to today’s residents’—active, with a longer lifespan—needs.

In an interview with Multi-Housing News, three Principal Rockland Berg revealed the story behind one of the company’s most iconic projects—Edgemere, a luxury senior housing community in Dallas—and how its design set a new standard in senior living.


READ ALSO: Senior Housing Demand Outpaces New Supply


What does living architecture encompass and how do three’s projects embody it?

Berg: We look to attract clients who share with us a vision and commitment to transform themselves and their residents through our design process. Our purpose is to provide design that lifts the human spirit. Beginning with the initial design charrette, we focus with our clients on the emotional attributes and experiential expectations for the community. Once discerned and prioritized, we utilize their own words as guides to measure our design at each milestone through to the completion of the built product.

In which way do your company’s projects cater to today’s seniors’ needs?

Berg: We have a unique acumen for synthesizing successful hospitality service models with the residential accommodation and care programming for active-adult lifestyles. We begin by approaching our living solutions with a hospitality model in mind, which is then informed by the senior living context and the needs of the owners and operators, instead of the other way around. This approach has been the key to delivering residential solutions that attract and retain satisfied residents.

One of your most iconic developments is Edgemere in Dallas. What’s the inspiration behind it?

Berg: Edgemere has become the benchmark for high-end, urban, resort-style communities in Texas. Our clients envisioned a Tuscan aesthetic, scaled appropriately to its context and robust in its accommodations. Inspired by their vision, we set out to achieve a transformative design. Like a superb Chianti Classico Riserva, Edgemere is a bold expression of the best-of-class in senior residential lifestyle accommodations, with all the latest communication, ergonomics, monitoring and care technologies at hand.

Edgemere. Image courtesy of three

What are the elements and features your projects share that make them stand out from other senior living developments?

Berg: Successful active adult environments must attract and satisfy residents. To do this, they must provide flexibility throughout the day to meet the changing demands of the community. For example, activating front-door spaces with food and drink are a great way to invigorate the space socially and encourage interaction among residents and visitors. The interiors must be flexible, able to adapt over the course of a day to accommodate a variety of scheduled events.

We identify opportunities to create smart rooms with layered lighting, appropriate acoustics and adjustable FF&E, enhancing the flexibility of space. With that in mind, we strive to keep the architecture out of the way, knowing that future changes in use of space and programming for resident interests may require the building to transform over time.

Additionally, all three-designed senior living projects feature a notable consistency of design and finishes throughout the entire community. As a resident moves through the continuum of care, there should be no appreciable difference in the aesthetics and quality of spaces. We also place great value on the landscaped environments, creating comfortable outdoor rooms nested in courtyards surrounded by amenities such as walking paths, activity venues and gardens. We believe access to safe and enjoyable outdoor environments is critical to our projects and take great care in optimizing opportunities on both sides of the glass. 

Lastly, we understand the business side of things and always design to support operational efficiency and reduced maintenance overhead. In today’s world, residences are getting bigger, while common spaces are getting smaller and smarter. We always consider modular options for leveraging construction efficiencies, among other strategies to optimize our clients’ construction dollars.

Elaborate on the current senior living design trends.

Berg: We believe strongly in inclusive senior lifestyles that integrate opportunities for daily intergenerational experiences. We look to leverage local cultural, educational and entertainment amenities while at the same time, incorporating senior-tailored spaces design within the community for the pollination of intergenerational activities.

Edgemere. Image courtesy of three

How do you see senior living architecture going forward?

Berg: We are seeing a growing demand for new, tailored residences and a continued interest in environments for seniors that combine the best of home and hospitality. We see a large number of new owners and operators entering the market. Many of them find the market space dominated by well-established, mission-based competitors. These new players need the design experience and appropriate innovation. As this growth in the market plays out, the design solutions will continue to diversify in response to the unique context of each.

What are your company’s short- and long-term plans?

Berg: Our full value is realized when we can work closely with the client group, to listen, develop understanding and then create a design that embraces their vision for a new community. We have been very successful in realizing our potential for luxury communities, and we are now turning our attention to doing the same for the larger moderate market needs. To achieve this long-term goal, our recipe for success will focus on scale, modularity and design transportability.