Building Type Basics For Senior Living

Physical Copy:

By: Perkins Eastman

Rating: A

This was my third “Senior Living” focused book. This was an actual textbook. But it WAS readable. It went over all of the things to consider when developing and constructing a senior living facility. There is a lot of intentionality that goes into the buildings to support and protect the lives of seniors.

The Demand for Senior Housing Is Growing. 

It is growing dramatically for the foreseeable future.

According to the 2010 US Census, 13% of the population (40 million people) is 65 or older. That represents an increase of more than 5 million since 2000. Demographic projections for 2025 show that population growing to 63 million. By 2030, 19% of the population of the US (71 million people) will be over 65.

The three demographic trends driving this change are:

  1. The elderly population is growing larger.
  2. Older people are staying healthy longer.
  3. American society is growing more diverse.

What niche of Senior Living is most attractive to me?

Active Adult Communities.


They are the most similar to traditional apartments and the profit margins are the largest within the senior niche.

Active adult communities (AACs), also known as empty-nester developments, are marketed as a lifestyle choice rather than simply a place to live. Potential residents are looking to trade in the responsibilities and maintenance that comes with owning a large home for convenience and readily available activities and entertainment. Many residents have become lonely in neighborhoods where they have lived for decades as their neighbors and friends are replaced by younger and sometimes less compatible neighbors.

All communities may be age-restricted to people 55 and older and are regulated as multifamily dwellings.

Many municipalities encourage and seek out their development because AACs increase their tax base without adding children to the school system.

Common Area Standards for AACs:

AACs with 250-300 units: Require 5,000 – 7,000 sf recreational building with social activity spaces, small library, exercise room, meeting area, small kitchen, and restrooms.

Characteristics of AAC community centers:

  • Focal point of community
  • Main lobby
  • Fireplace
  • Gathering room
  • Multipurpose rooms
  • Party room with kitchen to be used by residents and caterers
  • Bar, coffee shop, or grill
  • Business center, including small meeting rooms and computers
  • Card and billiard rooms 
  • Indoor fitness area, including exercise equipment, aerobics area, and a lap pool
  • Men’s and women’s locker rooms with sauna

Construction Differences:

Here is just a small sample of the differences between traditional apartments and the requirements in the least strict flavor or senior living.

Bathroom Construction Differences:

The typical features of the bathroom include:

  • A roll-in shower that accommodates a wheeled shower chair
  • A vanity countertop rather  than a wall-mounted sink, giving residents space to set grooming devices while using them.
  • An open area below the vanity countertop so it can be used in a seated position. This also provides space for a walker or wheelchair.

Adaptive Reuse:

Can I renovate an existing apartment complex into a senior living facility?

In short, no because of the dramatically different attributes in most of the mechanical and structural features needed in a senior living facility versus a traditional apartment complex.

The following are problems commonly faced by existing independent living facilities:

  • The bathroom in small residential apartments is not located in the bedroom and is not handicapped accessible.
  • Residential apartments do not have washer/dryers, under-counter microwaves, dishwashers, or adequate countertops, closets, or storage.
  • Residential apartment balconies are too small to accommodate a table and chairs for residents and guests.
  • Residential apartments are too small to accommodate residents’ furniture or technology.
  • Residential apartments are connected to the main dining venues and educational rooms by long, badly lit corridors, making it difficult for residents to age in place.
  • Inadequate activity, fitness, aquatic, or wellness facilities fail to meet residents’ expectations.
  • Communal resident entrances are unprotected from the elements.
  • Lobbies and living rooms are not handicap accessible and have an institutional ambiance. 


It is abundantly clear that the need for quality senior living facilities is growing and will continue to grow for the next couple of decades. The Active Adult or Age-Restricted Communities are the most attractive to me because they are the most similar to traditional apartments and because the profit margins are the healthiest. This is due to the reduction in government involvement (i.e. regulation) and the reduction in healthcare professional staff needed.

In acquiring a senior living facility, the property needs to have been constructed based on the needs of seniors. Retrofitting an existing traditional apartment is not economically feasible.

This asset class is poised to grow and mature over the next couple of decades, which will benefit both the owners and residents for years to come.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: