With an eye toward a potential future project, Many Mansions and the Area Housing Authority of the County of Ventura paid a visit to Senior Concerns to gather suggestions for features seniors would want to see in a new complex of independent senior apartments.
We were delighted to know that a builder had an interest in what seniors would want in a living situation, rather than just constructing the most affordable and routine set of apartments.
Features that came easily to mind include elevators, trash chutes, dishwashers and Wi-Fi. Universal Design elements such as walk-in showers, raised toilets and windows and doors that can easily be opened, closed and locked should also be incorporated. Other ideas on our list:
Apartments that are affordable for most seniors.
A circular pickup and drop-off area with a bench and lighting for those who plan to ride with someone else or use Dial-A-Ride.
Front doors to the building that open automatically when a person nears the entrance
Adjustable rods and shelves in closets for seniors who are short or use a walker or a wheelchair
Bathrooms large enough to accommodate those who may need help as they age in place
Shower stalls with built-in seat
About one in four people over the age of 55 have hearing aids. In most environments, hard-of-hearing people hear the broadcast sound only after it has traveled some distance from a loudspeaker, reverberated off walls and gotten mixed with other room noise.
Induction loop systems like HearingLoop take sound straight from the source and deliver it right into the listener’s head. It’s as if one’s head was in the microphone or inches from a television’s loudspeaker—without extraneous noise or blurring of the sound with distance from the sound source. HearingLoop has been installed in churches, theaters, airports, courts and auditoriums. It just makes sense to extend this to senior housing facilities.
A building generator. If loss of power occurs due to an outage or a natural disaster, the generator would kick in and power the elevators for those seniors who cannot walk down the stairs and provide electricity for things like CPAP machines and electronic mediation management systems.
•Services that can be brought to the apartment dweller, like grocery, drug store and restaurant delivery; a mobile hairdresser/ barber; and a mobile vet/groomer.
A small device outside the resident’s front door that can be “switched on” each morning to indicate the resident is well and needs no help. Neighbors can contact neighbors if the indicator is not turned on to see if the resident needs assistance.
A public gathering space like a community room that could be multi-purposed for yoga, various fitness activities, lectures, musical programs, films and social events. It should include a small café or coffee shop.
A walking trail that includes a quiet outdoor space.
The one thing the builder many not have a choice about is location. However, in a perfect world, seniors would appreciate apartments that are walkable to parks, grocery and drug stores, coffee shops and restaurants, and other places they like to frequent. And they would, of course, like the apartment to be in a safe area.
Kudos to Many Mansions and the Area Housing Authority for soliciting advice.
Any new build in a community should be considering the needs of seniors—either as residents or visitors to the complex—since by 2030, 20 percent of the national population will be over the age of 65.
It’s just good business to care about seniors’ needs.
Gallagher is a certified senior advisor and president of Senior Concerns, a nonprofit agency serving Ventura and western Los Angeles counties. Visit www.seniorconcerns.org or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.