by Zach Grabinski

It’s been a while since there was a boom in the construction of institutional housing for seniors and students. The building of senior living residences has been stagnant since the housing market crash of 2008. Although student housing construction has been steady in the last few years, many student accommodations are reaching the end of their usefulness. According to Building Design + Construction, many colleges and universities have residence halls that were constructed in the 1960s and 1970s. And, for both seniors and students, needs—both practical and aesthetic—are changing.

According to The New York Times, “Demand for nursing homes, assisted-living facilities and retirement communities is expected to balloon in the next two decades as baby boomers retire and the incidence of progressive illnesses like Alzheimer’s disease increases.” However, the inventory of senior housing options is not keeping pace with the demographics. As for today’s college students, they have no interest in the amenities and design of post-war generation housing and are looking for colleges and universities that offer living spaces that align with their lifestyles and their beliefs.

So, the needs are clear. And the timing is ideal to talk about next-generation senior and student living options.

For the senior living construction sector, there is still uncertainty about growth. But, Senior Housing News reports, “Although there is chatter in the industry that construction is slowing down, many senior housing executives say they actually are planning to start building projects this year.” And, many current facilities owners are looking to upgrade or remodel their housing complexes. Whether these planned new projects and facility remodels come to fruition or not, the trends that are emerging in senior living will certainly drive decisions on how future housing should look and the accommodations that must be considered. Here’s a look at some of those trends: (from Building Design + Construction)

  • The move away from nursing homes—particularly the idea of semi-private rooms. New facilities are focusing on optimizing privacy and offering a deeper sense of dignity for residents
  • Creating more home-like settings—units consisting of private bedrooms with communal living and dining rooms
  • Expanded choice—not just nursing homes but “condo for life,” entry-fee options, rentals, and time shares
  • Less focus on the words ‘care’, and ‘retirement’—many seniors want a place to continue their lives, participate in activities and feel connected

In student housing there is no doubt there exists a rising demand for residences in college communities. “I’d say we’re in the bottom of the third inning or the top of the fourth,” said Bill Bayless, the chief executive and a founder of American Campus Communities, using a baseball analogy to describe the sector’s growth trajectory over the next few years. As colleges, universities and builders struggle to keep up with demand, they must also confront the very clear—and often expensive—demands of students. Again, Building Design + Construction helps us understand the needs for this market:

  • Creating a sense of community—new and renovated housing featuring lounges, seminar rooms, game rooms, and other socially-oriented amenities, such as quiet areas with plush seating
  • Sustainability—students have a keen sense of environmental awareness, so much new housing is built to at least LEED Silver status to support good ecological practices
  • Competitive market—some institutions find themselves competing against newer off-campus residences with appealing, often expensive, amenities
  • Mixed-use residences—particularly popular in urban settings, many student living facilities also cater to the community at large with retail, restaurant and other non-school specific offerings

As new senior and student projects are planned, you can be certain that designers and builders will carefully assess the best appointments to address the changing needs/wants of these markets. From cabinetry to furniture to bath and kitchen finishings, builders will need innovative solutions to meet both residents’ demands and project budgets. Grabinski Group has deep experience in senior and student housing, working with builders to procure the most innovative, highest quality appointments for their project. We also manage the installation in a way that ensures that budgets, deadlines and user needs are met.

For more information or to learn more about how the Grabinski Group can help you with your next hospitality project, please contact us.


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