When making the decision to live in a senior living community, one might assume that the rhythm of your regular life is gone forever. Your ability to gather with friends, dine when and where you like, socialize at your leisure, nurture your individual talents and interests, and keep physically fit are gone forever, right?

Not so!!

If the commons areas in your community thoughtfully combine the following components, your residents will continue to live their lives to the fullest.

The Gathering Component

It is not always easy to bring people together, so the design of effective gathering spaces is key to creating a true Community Center. This component needs to accommodate groups, both large and small. These spaces should be thoughtfully scaled with good acoustics and flexible lighting. They need to accommodate:

  • Groups as large as 150+
  • 30-50 in a “learning environment”
  • Resident Committees of varying sizes that meet regularly
  • Movies that are played weekly
  • Large campus wide activities that might require the need for one very large interconnected series of spaces
  • Storage, AV facilities, and food service accessibility to support these spaces

The Dining Component

Who doesn’t like variety? It is the spice of life. Especially when it comes to dining, right? A community’s ability to provide a variety of dining choices for residents is a sure way to create a distinct lifestyle on campus. Create a combination of dining options that:

  • Respond to the current trends where only 30 percent of the space is devoted to traditional dining settings and private dining rooms, while 70 percent of the dining is presented in a more casual format
  • Offer a variety of modern choices that might feature center stage cooking, deli and/or other points of service that facilitate and differentiate casual and formal dining atmospheres
  • Feature thoughtful solutions for the storage and accessibility of ambulation support devices
  • Incorporate opportunities for the support staff to share the points of service with residents

The Life Long Learning Component

We all crave knowledge, and keeping mentally active is a vital component of wellness. A true Community Center supports every resident’s desire to learn and nurtures their talents and interests. Consider:

  • Creating a library setting conducive to quiet study
  • Providing a flexible classroom setting
  • Providing a business center
  • Creating a technology center
  • Enhancing creative arts opportunities
  • Creating a designated place of worship
  • Creating offices to support resident organizations

The Sociability Component

Life is enhanced by random and casual connections with friends as well as opportunities to meet new people. Provide settings that enhance socialization opportunities:

  • Create a true “lounge/pub” atmosphere that can accommodate viewing televised sporting events, trivia games, etc.
  • Develop a distinct “gaming area” for pool, ping pong, and Wii activities
  • Strategically locate a coffee shop/smoothie bar near wellness activities and/or passive functions like the library to encourage spontaneous interactions

The Fitness/Wellness/Pampering Component

While there are multiple dimensions of wellness, a community’s ability to provide opportunities to enhance physical wellness with first class facilities that can compete with private health clubs is an amenity that won’t go unnoticed. Consider including:

  • Exercise machines
  • An aerobic studio
  • A swimming pool with lockers and a nice dressing area
  • Nutrition counseling
  • Extended physical therapy
  • A full service salon, including a nail station and massage therapy
  • A physician’s office/clinic with a audiologist, dentist, podiatrist, and blood pressure screenings

Learn more about Fitness Centers – Keep Your Fitness Center Fit

Read more about Aquatic Center Design – The Ideal Aquatic Center

Creating a Community Center that incorporates all of these components means you are committed to the big picture on your campus. Your commitment to your residents will encourage a new level of socialization, a community full of vibrant activity where residents choose to live because they know they can age gracefully while living life to the fullest.