What Senior Living Has to Say about Health and Well-Being in Design

Editor's Note: For additional context, please see our Design Forecast webinar, Designing for the 100-Year-Life and an Active Aging Future.

Design is a superpower. But to what end will we use it?

I was presented with the opportunity to explore this question in a recent talk for the Senior Living Innovation Forum (SLIF) in Napa, California. SLIF is a community for senior housing providers who want to disrupt the status quo. As a design leader, it was my job to describe the role our industry will play in that disruption. That role, it turns out, is a major one.

Almost by definition, excellent senior living design prioritizes health and well-being in ways that should be automatic for all types of design — but aren’t. The practice forces us to think deeply about the experience of the end user without taking their abilities for granted. While I am fighting to raise senior living design standards in particular, I truly believe that these lessons, grounded in health research, should inform every project on which we work.

Senior living distills down the relationship between design and well-being in such a compelling way. When a project provides older adults with access to nature, that is more than just a nice feature; it creates measurable health benefits at a stage in life when they are most consequential. When a bathroom supports individuals of all abilities without sacrificing beauty, that does more than check off a code requirement; it advances human dignity.

Click here to view the full recording of my remarks. I’d like to thank SLIF for the opportunity to share my ideas and for their ongoing devotion to reshaping senior living and care.

When I say in my talk that design is a superpower, I mean it. The caveat is that we must be purposeful about its application. There is no guarantee that our society will take the necessary steps to support the 100-year life before demographic changes become overwhelming. The choice is ours, we know what to do, and time is short.

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Tama Duffy Day
Tama is a principal, global leader of Gensler’s Senior Living practice, and an advisor to the Health Sector. She is a global author, lecturer, and speaker who is dedicated to impacting lives of all ages and enriching communities through the power of design. She is based in Washington, D.C. Contact her at .