In August, Pam Gerhardt’s fantastic Washington Post article brought this important issue to light. After visiting several communities with her father, she took the assisted living industry to task, advising providers to examine programming and design elements (i.e. background music, window treatments, wall art, available community spaces, activity offerings, etc.) and seek a more balanced approach, as most primarily favored females.
Yes, there are more women in assisted living (as per our coverage of the subject, 26% of assisted living residents are men), but a putting green is not enough. Besides, it’s not just about those who live there, visitors also need to feel comfortable. Perhaps a teenage grandson would be more apt to visit Granddad if they could watch their favorite team on the community pub’s flat screen, rather than joining him for arts & crafts in the lovely rose-colored multi-purpose room?
As more communities consider universal design elements (design that supports aging in place), they should also reflect on ways to incorporate interests and aesthetics that appeal to both genders, rather than just one. Likewise, embracing a variety of interior design styles is a good idea too: Gerhardt suggests artwork from all genres instead of pastels only. How about a community living room with a sleek, modern feel instead of another Victorian-esque parlor? Assisted living communities of the future must think outside the gender box.
Your turn: What suggestions would you offer to make assisted living more gender-neutral?