The Perkins Eastman Research Collaborative, an arm of architecture firm Perkins Eastman, recently completed the 2010 American Institute of Architects (AIA) Design for Aging (DFA) Knowledge Community senior housing study and released its report: "Design for Aging Review—10 Insights and Innovations: The State of Senior Housing." This 250-page report is intended to promote best practices and to serve as a resource for evidence-based design and is available on the AIA DFA website.

Perkins Eastman researchers evaluated 90-plus recently designed, leading-edge senior living projects in the U.S. and internationally (all of them entries to the Design for Aging Review (DFAR), a biennial design competition) to identify best practices and common threads that point to large-scale trends, as well as outstanding features that buck those trends. The DFAR10 Insights Study, as this report also is known, examines each of the project entries, describes the features and strategies that make the projects unique, pinpoints patterns and innovations impacting senior living design and development, and interprets the current and future states of the industry. 

A few key findings point to:

  • A growing prevalence of the household model;
  • An increasing preference for a contemporary or modern style;
  • A decline in projects that fit the traditional continuing care approach, suggesting a shifting market perspective;
  • An increase in urban senior housing projects.

Also of interest is the finding that projects incorporated particular features to attract their target market, many of which appear quite popular, including:

  • Physical and/or visual connections to nature;
  • Abundant common spaces;
  • Wellness/fitness spaces;
  • Green/sustainable design features, such as daylighting and good indoor air quality. 

Although the projects themselves are diverse and showcase nine building types, award winners exhibited several common themes, among them:

  • Connection to nature;
  • Site responsiveness;
  • Connection to the neighborhood;
  • Intergenerational developments;
  • Holistic wellness;
  • Aging in place;
  • Neighborhood/household model and personalized care;
  • Extensive amenities, offering many options to residents;
  • Focus on affordability;
  • Hospitality or resort feel.

Download the complete DFAR10 Study.