As the population in the United States ages, living situations for seniors and the elderly are undergoing a radical shift. While assisted care facilities are still necessary for those with certain medical issues, research has shown that most of today's aging Americans would prefer to remain in their own homes and live independently for as long as possible. Over the past decade, alternative housing solutions have been evolving to accommodate their needs and demands.

  • The 2010 AAHSA Idea House presents a modern front that hints at the openness of its interiors.

    Credit: THW Design, courtesy of the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging

    The 2010 AAHSA Idea House presents a modern front that hints at the openness of its interiors.
One of the latest models for senior living—the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging's (AAHSA) 2010 Idea House—integrates thoughtful, flexible, accessible design with safety, wellness, and connectivity features to support an independent lifestyle while helping to monitor health and providing necessary care on an as-needed basis. The house will be exhibited and open for tours Oct. 31 to Nov. 3 during the association's Annual Meeting and Exposition in Los Angeles.

The 2,600-square-foot model home, designed by Eric Krull, an associate at Atlanta-based architecture firm THW Design, promotes aging in place through a variety of features, beginning with its spacious and flexible rooms. Two bedrooms, an open kitchen and dining area, a living room, and one bathroom all flow easily into one another. "The large circulation paths promote unrestricted independence for walkersor wheelchairs," Krull says. Many adaptable features and fixtures—such as automated adjustable wall cabinets, an adjustable-height toilet, and programmable lighting controls—are incorporated in each of the rooms to help accommodate different levels of independence and accessibility on a daily basis and as residents age.

The house's design demonstrates how technology and the physical environment—indoors and outdoors—can be leveraged to enhance the health, healing, independence, and social connectedness of senior residents as they age in place, either in a single-family home or as part of a senior living facility, according to Krull.

The Idea House's C-shaped floor plan revolves around the central, South-oriented courtyard that is accessible from and open to three of the rooms. A barbecue, food prep area, and room for multiple seating arrangements provide ample space for lounging solo or entertaining. Totaling 2,600 square feet, the outdoor living spaces will include a space for gardening, as well as Tai Chi and yoga gardens to encourage holistic health. It's a house designed as much for entertaining and socializing as for maintaining wellness.

  • The house's orientation is around its central courtyard, a design that encourages interactions with nature and socializing.

    Credit: THW Design, courtesy of the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging

    The house's orientation is around its central courtyard, a design that encourages interactions with nature and socializing.
"We sought to blend functionality and beauty when designing the Idea House, as well as create ample opportunity for socialization and improved health," said Krull in an announcement. "It's been proven that socialization has a big impact on the autoimmune system and overall health, and we took this into account when designing the project."

The Idea House also is designed for net-zero energy performance, using a wind turbine and photovoltaic panels to generate electricity. It incorporates recycled materials, as well as water- and energy-saving fixtures and appliances, such as low-flow fixtures and controls for lighting and window shading. Large expanses of windows, including clerestories and sliding glass doors, will infuse the interior with abundant natural light. Two green roofs will top the flat surfaces of the house's East and West wings.

Many of the technologies that will be incorporated into the show house have yet to be finalized, but among them will be safety monitoring systems to help residents maintain a sense of security. A slew of other technology add-ons will demonstrate the many options available for remotely monitoring health, assisting those with limited mobility, encouraging wellness and exercise, and keeping in touch with friends and family.

  • The floor plan illustrates the openness of the house's interior spaces.

    Credit: THW Design, courtesy of the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging

    The floor plan illustrates the openness of the house's interior spaces.
The Idea House's design concept also can be applied to a variety of building types, according to AAHSA, such as "care cottages" where multiple seniors live together, multifamily continuing care developments, and single-family units.

For more details about the 2010 Idea House and for pictures and video of the 2009 Idea House, visit www.aahsa.org/ideahouse.aspx.