The Changing Face of Senior Living

How Perkins Eastman’s senior living team brings design excellence and empathy to a rapidly diversifying industry
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Architect Max Winters and members of the senior living team gather to discuss a project layout. Copyright Perkins Eastman

The sculptural lighting fixtures, plush furnishings, and mouth-watering food at Maravilla at The Domain are barely discernable from those found at luxury resorts—and that’s the point. A recipient of the premier 2021 American Institute of Architects Design for Aging Review award, Maravilla at The Domain is a wellness community for adults 55 and older located just outside of Austin, TX. Designed by Perkins Eastman, the project is the embodiment of a resort-style, walkable, and connected neighborhood in an urban setting.

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Maravilla at The Domain in Austin, TX, above, features ample outdoor space for gathering and a variety of options for dining and cocktails. Copyright Brandon Barré/Courtesy Perkins Eastman

Maravilla at The Domain is part of a shifting paradigm in the industry, thanks to the Baby Boom generation that now defines the demographic. Advances in medicine, technology, and quality of life, among many other factors, are pushing the bounds of human longevity. In direct response, the residential environments for aging—how we think about them, how we design them, and how we name them—are also undergoing rapid reinvention.

Consistently top ranked for senior living in industry journals such as Building Design + Construction, Perkins Eastman is at the vanguard of firms changing the face (and the massing, exteriors, and interiors) of these living spaces. But these rankings, along with the firm’s many awards and projects, only tell part of the story. What makes the practice truly exceptional is its people. The carefully curated team of more than 125 sought-after experts who comprise Perkins Eastman’s senior living practice bring deep personal experience with and empathy for those who are living out their third acts. Every one of these people has their own unique story and connection to this work, which contributes to the high level of excellence and bespoke quality that sets the practice apart.

Consider Senior Associate Max Winters. Driven to pursue architecture from a young age, Max gravitated towards senior living in part because of his personal experience with his grandparents—one couple that had ample financial resources and the ability to plan, and the other that could not afford such luxuries. “As they grew older and had different needs and challenges,” says Winters, “I saw that the built environment had a key role to play in both of these situations.”

New Episodes of "Shaping Dementia Environments" podcast out now! 1   Missing Main Street: Reconnecting Older Adults with Dementia to the Fabric of Authentic Living   The Clean Slate Project 1

Winters is addressing the challenges his grandparents and many others face in myriad ways. As co-host of the Perkins Eastman podcast Shaping Dementia Environments and contributing author to original published research including Missing Main Street and Clean Slate Project, he’s applying what he’s learned to his work on projects across the United States and Canada.

As both an architect and gerontologist, Associate Principal Alexis Denton focuses on combining the latest research in both industries to design healthy and meaningful senior living environments.

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Engaging exercises like creating image collages are often conducted with staff and residents of client communities. Courtesy Perkins Eastman

Denton’s interests intersected early in her career. Working on a variety of projects—from fitness centers to senior living—she witnessed how seniors in particular could be positively impacted by design. “I believe that of all of the types of people out there, the living environment has the most effect on the aging population,” Denton says. Inspired by the latent potential within the industry, she jointly pursued a Master of Architecture and Master of Arts in Gerontology at the University of Southern California. Since joining Perkins Eastman in 2019, she now leads many of Perkins Eastman’s projects on the West Coast.

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For the interiors of Enso Village in Healdsburg, CA, the team is drawing inspiration from Zen and Quaker principles. Rendering courtesy Perkins Eastman

Joe Hassel, principal and co-leader of the senior living practice, translates his love for travel and unique culinary experiences into memorable environments. “Everyone deserves variety in their life. Growing older doesn’t mean staying put and eating the same food day in and day out,” he says. “Creating a branded culinary experience is important to today’s consumer. They want it all—an active and vibrant environment that focuses on excellence in quality and service.”

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The entry-level restaurant at Anthology of King of Prussia in Pennsylvania, above, replaces the standard reception area and offers a lively place for residents and visitors to enjoy a drink or a meal with friends or family.
Photograph Andrew Rugge/Copyright Perkins Eastman

Hassel’s considered approach to culinary design—check out his publications Senior Living Culinary Master Planning and Culinary Design and COVID-19—explore the importance of both variety and specificity in healthy, experientially focused environments. Award-winning projects like Maravilla at The Domain, Anthology at King of Prussia in Pennsylvania, and the in-progress Royal Oaks at Inspirata Pointe in Sun City, AZ, give credence to this research.

The places and spaces that encompass senior living exist on a wide spectrum—and the people planning and designing those spaces are every bit as varied. In honor of our people’s dedication and teamwork, we’ve published a story about the evolution of our senior living practice in Perkins Eastman’s magazine, The Narrative. In the piece, we explore how the practice continues to leverage the talents and passions of its team members to build a worldwide community dedicated to improving the lives of older people, one research initiative and project at a time.
Read the entire article here.

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A welcoming and public courtyard brings multiple generations together at Trillium at Tysons in Northern Virginia, a new project with Silverstone Senior Living. Rendering courtesy Perkins Eastman