Livable Design – Embrace It And Thrive

Aging consumers’ demand for safe, comfortable living spaces creates $7.9 trillion opportunity

In four Design Viewpoints Series seminars, industry thought leaders mapped out an emerging $7.9 trillion opportunity. Exploring the challenges of designing environments for the health and well-being of clients as they age, presenters showed how livable design is a key objective for clients of any age.

“Livable design is versatile in purpose, beautiful in form, and generally a lot of fun.”

“ASID members have been focused on the concept of people living longer and we’ve advocated for universal design for decades,” said ASID CEO Randy Fiser. “We have worked with independent and assisted living communities to help set guidelines while taking leadership roles in the “Thriving in Place” movement. The demand for livable homes is real and growing exponentially. Those in the home furnishings industry who wish to benefit from this enormous revenue-producing wave must embrace livability by recognizing the opportunity, adopting new attitudes and offering thoughtful products. Our industry’s commitment to sophisticated style and good design has never been more crucial. Designers, manufacturers, and retailers who focus on function, comfort, and sustainability will be the winners.”

The first session, “Livable Design: The Evolution of the Home Environment” defined the concept as serving the broadest range of people. “In the past, the marketing campaign around designing for the aging just wasn’t sexy,” said Kerrie Kelly, ASID, CAPS, design director of Kerrie Kelly Design Lab in Sacramento, CA, and co-presenter with Fiser. “Conversely, livable design is versatile in purpose, beautiful in form, and generally a lot of fun. Safety is an example of a universal need. Zero threshold entryways allow for ease of using strollers and dollies for boxes as well as wheelchairs!”

“The versatility of the livable features in new homes adds significant value.”

Touchless faucets, which promote sustainability, flip-down charging stations, layered and filtered lighting, varying counter heights, lever pulls instead of knobs, and bringing nature indoors were among her suggestions for human-centric designs. “Interview your client and go deeper. Who is coming to the home? What are their long and short-term plans? Look for opportunities to create “hackable space” – places where furniture can be moved around for different uses as the family dynamic changes,” Kelly advised.

The form of the livable home was the focus of “Where We Choose to Thrive: A Discussion of Aging-in-Place Communities,” a session led by award-winning senior living expert BJ Miller, FASID, CCM, principal of The Vision Group of Asheville, NC. According to Miller, “The versatility of the livable features in new homes adds significant value now and in the future. My design specifications always include appropriate lighting throughout, motion detectors for vital sign monitoring, second bedroom options for a caregiver, master bedrooms large enough for two single beds, removable kitchen and bathroom cabinets for wheelchair access, shower stalls with space for a portable chair, level thresholds into the shower and large windows with low sills.”

“Well-selected wall colors and the integration of wood, textiles, and tile have forever changed the stereotype of senior living areas as sterile and institutional.”

In “Color & Paint in Environments for the Aging” Fran Ducharme, Brand Ambassador for Benjamin Moore & Co., explained the changes in color perception that occur with aging, and how understanding these physical factors helps designers select livable colors for their clients of all ages. She advised avoiding colors that are adjacent on the color wheel and those in the yellow family as aging can result in the inability to perceive depth in more muted colors.

“Older people need homes with more contrasts so they can more readily discern between planes like floor and walls, especially when looking down a long hallway,” explained Andrea Magno of Benjamin Moore. “A stylish way to accomplish this might be with a light color on the wall and a darker color on the floor.” She noted that there are many color options appealing to all ages, especially those including blue and white, and that the high contrast of black and white can be accented with colors to stay on trend.

“Designers, manufacturers, and retailers who embrace Thriving in Place will reap great rewards.”

According to ASID CEO Fiser, “The business case for livable senior healthcare facilities was proven years ago, and the business case for health and well-being in office design is now widely accepted. Our members demanded changes from manufacturers and retailers to transform these industries, and it paid off for all. We believe that the proactive designers, manufacturers, and retailers who embrace Thriving in Place will reap great rewards in sales and through the satisfaction of contributing to a higher quality of life for their clients and customers.”

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