Assisted Living 2.0: Goodbye to Hallways in Senior Living

IRIS memory care modelIn the sea of innovative senior living models and designs comes a new approach not yet explored in many communities. And this recently released approach aims to blow up traditional assisted living and memory care floor plans.

Assisted Living 2.0, released by Wisconsin-based IRIS Design & Development LLC, is a design and operating model for assisted living and memory care that brings services to residents by getting rid of hallways in the community.

“In memory care, that hallway could be an unforgivable tunnel if residents forget where they are,” says Richard Meier, president of IRIS. “What residents end up doing is not going out, so they become more isolated and stay in their rooms. My idea is really simple: We should bring services to residents by redesigning the interiors to have events occur right outside their rooms.”

Instead of having hundreds of feet of hallways linking residents’ rooms to faraway common spaces, such as dining or activity rooms, senior living communities should be designed with an activity hub mere feet away from residents’ doorsteps, Meier says.

In the Assisted Living 2.0 model, about 15 memory care units would line the perimeter of an activity hub, which serves as a space for dining, events, socializing and wandering. These pockets of 10 to 20 residents would comprise a neighborhood within the broader community and each neighborhood would have its own activity hub. Assisted living neighborhoods would be set up in a similar fashion, but would include more resident apartments.

This concept hearkens back to the design company’s name, IRIS, which stands for “In Reach, In Sight.”

“It’s important for residents and caregivers to keep each other in sight at all times,” Meier says. “What we want is assisted, monitored, supervised walking — not somebody going down a long hallway with nobody watching in case they fall.”

A “track” around the activity hub, instead of hallways, would allow residents to wander and exercise, while they are still within reach and sight of their destinations as well as staff members.

This new design model reimagines the way senior living architects and designers have long built assisted living and memory care communities, Meier says. And through Assisted Living 2.0, IRIS offers concept-to-opening development capabilities in new construction and the rehabilitation and repurposing of existing communities.

Although no 2.0 projects have been completed yet, Meier says the costs would be comparable to other new-builds and rehabs. And, he adds, the exterior of the buildings would look no different.

“We’re starting to get some feedback now and people are loudly interested in it because of the obvious: Things haven’t changed for 25 years,” Meier says. “The opportunity is great and we think it will be the model of the future.”

Written by Emily Study