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Q&A: Technology-focused senior ­living design is here to stay

Institutional Real Estate, Inc. | February 23, 2022

Tammy Ng is a project manager at Alameda, Calif.­based architecture and design firm, MBH Architects. In a Q&A with IRE/, Ng discusses the emergence of technology-focused trends in senior living design, how the pandemic has influenced those innovations and what the future holds for them.

What are some of the biggest technological innovations in senior housing that have emerged over the past year and past few years?

The pandemic has increased the use of smartphone applications, teleconference meetings, and online communication, as seniors shelter in place. There has been an increased use of the phone and computer to access on line services, such as on line grocery-delivery services or virtual senior community classes. The use of telehealth has increased for seniors to hold doctor appointments at home. Providing upgraded Wi-Fi and internet-support capabilities has been vital in senior facilities to support this new way of life. In addition to accommodating better internet support at home, facilities have included more public mini workspaces at senior facilities, where building occupants are able to connect to the internet. We are specifying more furniture in lounge areas and in community rooms that include integrated folding tables and wireless-charging capabilities.

Upgraded HVAC systems and filters have been common in senior facilities to help maintain clean air. In addition, there has been a new trend to include air-cleaning systems and the use of UVC lighting technology to eliminate pathogens in the air within building facilities.

Which secular demand trends are driving the advancement of new technologies in these facilities?

The pandemic is driving the advancement of new technologies to promote healthy environments. There is an increased demand for smart­building technology, which includes increased use of touch less-door operations and more motion sensors to run fixtures and equipment within the building. With the automatic adjustment of building temperature and lighting using technology, occupants are also have less opportunities to come in contact by hand to buttons and switches.

What are the biggest challenges associated with building new technologies into senior-living facilities?

Providing training for staff and building occupants to keep up with the new changing updates in technology will be important. In senior facilities, we have included new computer-lab spaces, designed to provide a space where building occupants obtain the latest information on software applications. Staff will need to be trained in the smart-building technology so that it all functions properly in the facility.

Is it more cost effective to build new buildings or retrofit existing ones?

It depends on the project. Different technologies could be implemented depending on the type and condition of the building that could make it cost-effective either way.

Is advanced technology in these facilities here to stay, or is this a moment in time brought about by the pandemic?

The pandemic has had such a big impact on the world and it only further promotes the goal of creating healthy spaces, which was a design objective that was already in place for interior spaces, especially senior facilities and geriatric clinics. Technology created to maintain a clean, healthy interior environment is here to stay.


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