Skip to main content

As always, KEPHART enjoyed participating in the Colorado LeadingAge conference – their annual gathering of companies involved in the local senior living market. People attend to recharge their energies, taking in education sessions about new ideas in senior living and getting the chance to network with colleagues.

This year, KEPHART Principal, John Binder, served on the planning committee for the conference and led the final session that wrapped up the event. Director of Senior Living, Len Segel, contributed to a panel discussion about the impacts of COVID on the design of senior living communities, alongside Brian Mulnix of Catamount Constructors and Dan Swiatkiewicz with Christian Living Communities.

We’ve distilled the 3 days of the conference events into five key highlights:

  1. Celebrating Employees: There was a focus on celebrating the tremendous efforts of senior living workers who saved elderly residents from the worst ravages of the COVID crisis. Taking time to promote kindness in the workplace was presented in the keynote as being very important to nurture employees and reduce burn-out. Designing better staff lounge spaces will become more common to improve employee retention.
  2. Affordability: There was a lot of conversation about how to make senior living an affordable option for more people, particularly those who fall into the middle market. This is a topic of conversation KEPHART is exploring in the multifamily market, too. Potential solutions include:
    • Modular construction such as Minka Homes
    • Co-op shared living such as 2Life Communities
    • Expanding care services in independent living to delay the higher costs of assisted living
    • Providing low-cost multi-sensory stimulation rooms for the growing number of people with Dementia
    • The rise of the active adult market, which is a less expensive, ‘lite’ version of independent living
  3. Resident-Directed Communities: The evolving paradigm shift in senior living is being brought on by the game-changing Baby Boomer generation. Different from traditional senior living management styles, which only fosters ‘customers,’ resident-directed communities develop practices which enable residents to have a healthy balance of giving and receiving. Residents experience empowerment as active, valued and fulfilled citizens. Not surprisingly, these communities experience a higher rate of occupancy and with no additional management costs.
  4. COVID-Generated Design Changes: There are 5 design changes that will come into practice as we move past COVID. These will make the physical spaces better prepared for the next pandemic, as well as the annual attack of the flu season.
    • New forms of disinfecting heating and air-conditioning systems
    • Touchless hardware for the operation of doors, faucets, lights and paper towel dispensers
    • The integration of technology in the delivery of healthcare (telemedicine)
    • Significant reduction of the use of shared residences, especially in skilled nursing
    • The provision of more spaces to enjoy the health benefits of the outdoors
  5. Optimism: There was a general feeling that the senior living industry is emerging better, stronger, and wiser after a year of extreme duress. Lessons learned include:
    • Senior living can turn on a dime to effectively react to a crisis
    • The attention of the country has been more focused on senior living than ever before, bringing intellectual, governmental and financial resources to the industry
    • The worst is behind us now that vaccines are in widespread use
    • A plethora of good ideas were invented to deal with the crisis that will make senior living even better than ever

Kudos to the Colorado LeadingAge team for successfully orchestrating their first virtual conference! KEPHART is grateful for the ideas and inspiration that we, in turn, share with our team and clients. Finally, we’d like to acknowledge the heroic services that have been provided by all people working in senior living throughout the past 14 months. Society is so grateful to you and your dedicated staff!

If you are interested in viewing Len’s panel presentation on the impacts of COVID on senior living design, you can view the slides below. For more information on our findings from LeadingAge, please reach out to us at 303-832-4474.


This is the philosophy that drives KEPHART to create thoughtful homes and communities that positively change people’s lives.

KEPHART is a nationally recognized, award-winning architectural design and planning firm with 50 years of housing expertise. Our passion for designing well-designed places to live, work, and play has driven us to create more than 500,000 homes across the country, ranging from single and multifamily homes to workforce housing, senior living, LIHTC communities, and everything in between. We have a deep bench of talented staff to design and deliver innovative and practical solutions to meet the unique requirements of every project.