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REALX.Global: senior housing more flexible and user-centric

Evelien Van Veen, Director, Van Veen Architecten

Senior housing is evolving and becoming more flexible and customer-centric, delegates heard at Real Asset Media’s Senior Housing & Healthcare briefing, which was held online last week on the REALX.Global platform.

“The trend is to make senior housing more homely and with less of an institutional feel,” said Evelien Van Veen, director, Van Veen Architecten. “There’s a new generation of elderly people who want to belong to a community and don’t want to live in a soulless, institutionalised environment.”

It is a positive trend that should be encouraged, she said: “I’m designing the developments with the future residents, who are active and want working spaces and shared kitchens as well as leisure and entertainment areas.”

The demand for variety and flexibility is increasing, as residents want spaces that increase their well-being, including gardens and outside spaces. The pandemic has accelerated these trends.

“There can be no one-scheme-fits-all like before, variety is key now,” said Anja Dirks, architect, Owner Studio ID+. “Real estate is not just bricks and mortar. Senior housing must be user-centric and designed from the inside out. Research-driven design and thoughtful lay-outs can make a big difference to people’s lives.”

In urban settings senior housing residents want to feel part of the community and mix with other generations.

“Healthcare is very varied now,” said Ron van Bloois, chair, Senior Housing & Healthcare Association. “In cities senior living is being mixed with primary care facilities, creating inclusive neighbourhoods and mixing old and young.”

Change of scale of homes is in prospect

The demand for a more homely feel and personalised services also means a change of scale, as large institutional homes are seen as relics of the past.

“The nursing home with 150-200 beds is no longer viable, the pandemic has accelerated the shift to smaller units,” said Frédéric Dib, president, Mozaic Asset Management.

Investors, who are increasingly interested in the senior living and healthcare sectors, are coming on board too.

 “Investors used to be uninterested in smaller assets, but the health emergency has changed that and they are more open-minded now.”

The trend towards smaller sizes is better for the end-user, but it must be balanced with the need for critical mass.

“The customer-focused trend is positive, but a balance must be found with profitability, otherwise operators won’t be willing to enter the market,” said Philip De Monie, investment manager Belgium & Spain, Care Property Invest.

Solutions can be found, said Dib: “The idea is to keep personalised service and the cocooning aspect but pool management and facilities in the buildings, thereby lowering marginal costs.”