Senior Living Marketability and the Indoor-Outdoor Connection
by Johnathan Sims
The Hospitality and Resort industries have taught us that the outdoors is more important than ever before as a venue for entertainment, dining, fitness, business functions and community events. It is a stark example of change in the American lifestyle, an evolving preference for participation with the outdoors. While we view architecture as creating spaces to live, work and rest, we should be acutely aware the next generations of older adults are more physically active and value opportunities for outdoor engagement including activities that are both planned and spontaneous.
Successful Indoor-Outdoor experiences go beyond large windows and patios. Spaces should flow together with wide and inviting portals leading to well-appointed landscaped destination spaces. Covered areas for gatherings, games, hobbies, outdoor dining, amphitheaters and outdoor music venues are just a few examples of successful outdoor spaces that respond to current and future generation’s desires and expectations. Incorporating water, fire and a keen attention to landscaping materials adds life and vitality to the outdoor spaces. Different regions of the country will have specific preferences. The goal should be to provide opportunities for a variety of spaces with a behavioral purpose, and a variety of outdoor experiences. These spaces should link to the indoors through their placement and adjacency to indoor amenities. They should also be imaged to create connectivity and continuity from indoors to outdoors.
In care environments there is an equal priority for outdoor spaces as therapy. Evidence-based design studies have proven that access and views to nature, plant materials, sunshine and fresh air, are physically and psychologically beneficial for healing and wellbeing. Therefore, we should be designing outdoor destinations in our care communities that are easily accessed and that are strategically designed to promote health, healing and wellness.
A current example, The Ridge at Pinehurst was designed to maximize opportunities for indoor-outdoor connections. Floor-to-ceiling glass was strategically placed throughout the social and activity areas in a manner that optimizes views and access to the outdoors. Options for outdoor activities, ranging from nature paths to gardening, outdoor dining, games, fitness and a variety of active and passive gathering and social areas are clearly connected and visible from the amenity and activity areas of the building.
As the providers and form-givers of our nation’s senior environments we often concentrate our efforts on programming the interior spaces without capitalizing on the power of the outdoors as a focus on lifestyle opportunities and marketability. The surrounding grounds and open air amenities are wide open for exploration and response to evolving consumer expectations and market preferences. Let’s become more innovative in how we leverage the outdoors. Providers who leverage the tremendous opportunities of the outdoor environment will benefit through market differentiation and greater consumer appeal.