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Small-Home concept helps seniors with alzheimer’s and dementia thrive and flourish

By Lauren Witt, Forté Group, Inc.
The senior housing and care scene is changing dramatically as more and more seniors look for communities in which to retire. Institutional housing where seniors live in small spaces set along vacant hallways is a thing of the past. Baptist Retirement Community is taking a meaningful and fulfilling approach to the design, layout and quality of housing they provide for seniors. With the success of the two Green House® Homes that opened in 2008 on its 100-acre campus, Baptist Retirement Community has decided to build two more homes with a similar small-home model concept. These homes will serve seniors in need of assisted living memory care. The concept focuses on a small-home layout, with contemporary decor and care that is both personal and individualized.

“People delight in spaces that are well-designed, and they intuitively recognize when something has been designed with care,” said Craig Kinney, partner and LEED architect for Kinney Franke Architects, who is spearheading the project. “We did a lot of research and had several meetings with the Baptist Retirement Community team to make sure we were designing homes that will exceed the needs of the future residents.”

Everything is centered around a large living room. From that space, there are small vestibules that lead to resident rooms. The vestibules serve as a transition from a communal space to a private space, yet are short so residents do not get lost or confused. A spacious, secure courtyard connects the two homes. There will be a fire pit area that can also serve as a dance floor on warm summer nights. There will be raised gardens so residents can engage with nature, as well as shade spaces, trellises and porches. Baptist Retirement Community has made remarkable progress with senior care and their leadership pursues ideas that are both cutting-edge and transformative.

Kinney Franke Architects is incorporating natural lighting in various ways to help cue residents to the time of the day as well as to provide views into outdoor spaces. Each resident’s room has a window, and there are skylights throughout the building, as well as large windows in the living area and kitchen. The interior integrates natural materials to create a tactile experience that connects residents with the outdoors. The detail throughout each home is fairly contemporary, as Baptist Retirement Community and Kinney Franke Architects wanted to create a living space more suitable for the preferences of the generations born in the 1950s and 1960s. Additionally, to make the homes more like a typical family’s residence, they are eliminating beeping sounds, buzzers, flashing lights and anything that looks institutional.

“The design is not one-size-fits-all, as Baptist Retirement Community realizes that each resident has individual preferences,” said Kinney. “We tried to incorporate as many options as possible. For example, we have designed a large communal dining area where residents can eat together, and we will also incorporate small nooks where residents can enjoy private meals if they do not wish to dine in their room or in the main dining area. We will have a spacious activity area for groups to meet or families to visit in, as well as smaller spaces for quiet activities like reading, sewing or spending time on the computer.”

Each of the two homes is designed with a different color palette, one that leans toward a more coastal feel, and the other is a more rustic finish so that residents can easily distinguish between the houses. The houses will feature artwork from local artists and photographs of scenes in San Angelo and pictures of residents and their families. One of the homes will feature a beauty spa where residents can be pampered with hair and nail services, while the other will have an exercise area designed for physical activities and games. The furniture will be senior-friendly. The chairs have armrests so seniors can push off when standing up, or lean comfortably while relaxing. The furniture does not sink deeply either, so residents can get up with ease.

“These new assisted living memory care homes are modeled after the successful Green House Homes, which also embody the small home concept,” said Kinney. “When you walk into one of the existing homes that where residents currently live, you can feel the sense of community. The tone is set by a compassionate team that genuinely gets to know the residents. The community’s culture makes this a positive work environment, benefiting both residents and caregivers. My dad suffered from dementia in his final year, and I helped him navigate through many senior living communities in Houston, so I got a good feeling for what works and doesn’t work. It has been an absolute pleasure working with Baptist Retirement Community. What they are doing is definitely working.”

“We have been serving seniors since 1951 and are excited to serve even more seniors with the development of these two new homes,” said Quinda Feil-Duncan, executive director of Baptist Retirement Community. “Baptist Retirement Community has been leading Alzheimer’s and dementia care in Concho Valley since 2001 when we opened Sagecrest. We are excited to provide care to even more seniors in the San Angelo area who will benefit from this small-home model. This enhancement will create a continuum of care for those in need of memory care. No other community in the area offers the same level of care that caters to each individual’s changing needs. We plan to open the homes in July and celebrate with a special grand opening.”

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