Skip to main content
April 16, 2019
ReConnecting with LeadingAge Illinois – Our Team’s Thoughts and Takeaways
Here are our team’s takeaways on the Key Themes and Reveals of LeadingAge Illinois:

• Predapt!

• The Dimensions of Wellness and how the Built Environment can support them

• Senior Living in Urban Environments – worthwhile considerations

• The Arrival and Impact of For-Profit Developers

• The Fate of the 202 Program

Adaptation is too late – Predapt!
Wearable sensors are changing Senior Care. Using a wearable sensor, we can predict a fall within 3 weeks’ time with 86% accuracy by measuring walking gait. This is a huge innovation because we know that if we can avoid falls, we extend life 2.5 to 3 years, prolonging Independence, and prolonging entry into Skilled Nursing. Another example is a sensor that can detect a UTI. Another huge gain, especially for senior women, in whose population UTI’s take on symptoms of and are often mis-diagnosed as dementia or stroke. When applied creatively, the possibilities for technology extend to outside of the healthcare realm to things like autonomous vehicles or drones, which can provide independent mobility or even deliver medication.
This technology is not in the future, it’s here and affordable.

The solution? Reorient how we think about senior care challenges. Stop dealing with problems AFTER they happen. Change your approach to problems to solve at the source – PREDAPT.
(Learn more from Rebecca Costa at

The Dimensions of Wellness
The Dimensions of Wellness can have anywhere from 4 to 12 dimensions based on who you ask! But we all agree that wellness is more than the absence of disease. We also know that Seniors prefer to age in place – and that it becomes harder to age in place with multiple hospitalizations.

The solution? Predapt! Use Whole Person Wellness programming to support chronic disease management and reduce risk of injurious falls. This is accomplished by identifying challenges early and referring residents to the services they need prior to a devastating event – services that address Health Literacy Education, Chronic Condition Support, Maximizing function and mobility and touch on multiple dimensions of wellness like Emotional, Spiritual, Social, Physical, Intellectual and Vocational programs.

Can the built environment play a part in this effort? Yes!

At HED we use the wellness dimensions as an additional guide for senior living planning by looking for the opportunities where architecture can reinforce these dimensions. Like in exercise room planning – try to have windows in the space and orient the machines to have the user facing outward, adding a visual connection to nature that supports emotional health while supporting physical health.

For example, our takeaways from the Using the Built Environment to Support Dimensions of Wellness – especially for Residents with Dementia include:

• Lean into the influence of hospitality already present in the market by implementing hospitality design elements into care.

• Design a meal program that engages the resident’s social behavior appropriately. Some residents have a difficult time adjusting to new social behavior. A 90-minute formal dinner may not be as socially beneficial to some as a grab-n-go environment.

• Avoid glare by using sheer drapery. Horizontal louver blinds will create a striation effect that can be very disorienting for seniors.

• Provide contrast between horizontal surfaces (ex. an elderly person will not be able to discern the front edge of a light-colored chair that is placed on a light-colored rug). Use a contrasting cushion or table colors to avoid misjudging of furniture locations.

• Most seniors need to see each other to understand a conversation, so make sure to locate furniture to provide clear lines of sight between participants.

• Consider the mounting height of signage. Even though able-bodied persons may consider signage that is mounted per accessibility codes to be low, this height may already be above the line of sight for an elderly person with stooped posture.

• Signage should always be high contrast between the background and text. Consider using signage with graphics (ex. a picture of a toilet) in addition to text, for those who can no longer read.

• Consider how developments can create more energetic spaces by inviting resident's families and the community inside the development.

Senior Living in Urban Environments
We know that senior living developments in dense, urban environments are on the rise. But we took note of some important considerations of this trend, like:

• Consider the neighborhood: The importance of identifying cities with the existing appropriate density or urban infrastructure framework. By selecting a location within a neighborhood with the proper infrastructure or existing amenities, developments can reduce their own programming and amenities and allow residents to take advantage of the community’s activities.

• Consider the future: Municipalities are looking for developments with resilient designs that are “futureproofed.” If the development can be easily converted into apartments, hospitality, or event retail functions, its usability, and desirability, is greatly enhanced.

For more insights on how to design for the future resident, we recommended reading: “The Longevity Economy” by Joseph F. Coughlin, the Founder and Director of the MIT AgeLab.

The Arrival and Impact of For-Profit Developers
One of our biggest takeaways from this conference is the arrival and impact of For-Profit Developers in New Property Development. According to NIC Map Data Sciences, in Q4 of 2018 there were about 12 new property developments by Not-For-Profit agencies—compared to For-Profits, which had over 200. It’s a little early to know how this might change the landscape of Senior Housing and Care, but the sheer amount of developments is stunning.

The Fate of the HUD 202 Program
Linda Couch, Vice President of Housing Policy. Congressional Affairs confirmed that for the first time in several years’ money was budgeted for the HUD 202 program. The NOFA (Notice of Funding Availability) was released on April 4. While the allotment isn’t near what was originally requested with an original funding request of $600M for 4,300 new units, it’s important to remember that the debt program has been revised and this revision will be a huge improvement for the program. (Learn more from:
Downloadable Content