Designing the arts into senior living

Art room at Meadow Active Lifestyle Community

The art studio at The Meadow was strategically positioned to take advantage of north facing windows to support ideal painting conditions.

Architects and senior living providers are discovering the value in specialized spaces for arts and culture

The design intent for senior living communities continues to take a more hospitality-inspired approach, with a focus on creating engaging environments that encourage residents to live life to the fullest. Providers are taking a closer look at resident interests and working with design teams to create specialized spaces that speak to these hobbies and desired amenities.

Along the same lines, a number of communities are considering the positive impact of arts and cultural activities on the health and well-being of their residents. There is not an age limit for artistic endeavors, and cultural programming is an important part of creating an active lifestyle. Some communities are even highlighting the artistic talents of their residents. From spaces to create and display art to places for performances, design and programming interplay to enhance the lives of residents.

For the Masonic Homes of Kentucky, the Meadow Active Lifestyle Community adds an enhanced independent living experience to their Louisville campus. Providing a commons area with a rich, cultural amenity offering was a priority.

“Our population of residents includes several with considerable talent,” says J Scott Judy, senior vice president of operations and chief operations officer for Masonic Homes. “Painting is the dominant art, but we have sculptors, potters, performance artists and art collectors. We felt that if we created an environment which promoted those ideas, it would be great stimulus for the residents.”

For providers and design teams looking to enhance this aspect of their communities, consider the following design details to create interiors that celebrate the arts:

Art studio: The artistic talents of residents may go unnoticed in some communities, and a basic arts-and-crafts room may limit the ability to create. Programming for a fully functional art studio includes areas for easels and paint supplies, as well as a sculpture space with a kiln. For those incorporating a kiln, special sinks with an interceptor are needed for proper cleaning. Providing diverse and ample storage for supplies—such as vertical storage, lockable lockers, art files and flat files—supports a variety of mediums.

“Art is something any person can participate in regardless of their skill or physical ability. Even as our residents age, their passions and interests keep them young.” - J Scott Judy, chief operations officer for Masonic Homes

In the case of The Meadow, the art studio is a voluminous space positioned to receive ample daylight. The room also offers visual access, via a second level viewing area, so residents can enjoy watching the artists at work. A restroom and television screens are other programming elements that complete this special space.

Art gallery / display corridor: Some residents simply want to live in a creative environment. By designating gallery and display space for resident art as well as art shows and guest artists, residents and visitors alike can expand their artistic horizons. This also creates an opportunity for connecting with the community at-large.

At The Meadow, the hub of the commons plan was designed with an art focus. A corridor spine from the entry provides art display space as it guides residents and visitors through the commons area to a semi-circle ante room and then into a rotunda. Each area is designed to support rotating displays. A suspended lighting system offers flexibility so light levels can be adjusted accordingly. A neutral palette provides the perfect backdrop for any creation, while controlled access to natural light enhances the displays while minimizing glare.

Theater: Creating a rich cultural experience is more than paintings and sculpture. By providing a theater space with a small stage, residents can enjoy visual arts and discussions. In the case of The Meadow, a 50-seat cinema has been planned into the community.

Performing arts center: In addition to enjoying movies, a flexible ballroom space can provide the perfect backdrop for a variety of cultural experiences, such as performance art, concerts and art shows.

Wellness / fitness: Wellness or fitness rooms in an art-focused community provide space to support dance and other movement classes. Creating visual access to these spaces also engages residents by infusing a creative spirit into the community.

“Art is something any person can participate in regardless of their skill or physical ability,” Judy says. “Even as our residents age, their passions and interests keep them young. Our commitment to artistic programming was by request; based on interest from our residents, we are giving the new building an artistic theme where new and current residents can participate.”

Interiors that celebrate the arts have the opportunity to engage residents and the community at-large in a whole new way. This is not your token arts-and-crafts room; these are distinct amenities that offer a cultured lifestyle and could enhance the resident lifestyle at senior living communities across the country.

This article was also featured in Blueprints for Senior Living, the Design for Aging Knowledge Community's quarterly e-newsletter.

John Cronin, AIA, principal and senior design architect at Wisconsin-based AG Architecture, has more than 29 years of experience in the exterior and interior design development of senior living communities, large scale housing developments and mixed use buildings.

Image credits

Art room at Meadow Active Lifestyle Community

AG Architecture

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