Senior Living Interior Designers Create Community and Inspire Life
The first residents and visitors to Legacy Pointe at Waukee, Iowa would unanimously agree that it was a beautiful place. The senior living community consists of multiple buildings with varying levels of independent and assisted living services on approximately 15 suburban acres. The problem at Waukee in 2011 was not the aesthetic appeal of the facility, but a minor design flaw with a major impact on residents’ lives. Legacy Pointe’s activity center, known as the Town Center, was not functional. The Town Center was the heart of the community, but it felt more like an impersonal gallery than a neighborhood meeting spot.
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The Opportunity: Fostering Community
The management team at Legacy Pointe wanted the Town Center to be a centerpiece that fostered and embodied the vibrant spirit of its residents. Legacy Pointe is based in a farming community just west of Des Moines, with retirees who are accustomed to working long hours and being on the go. Needless to say, the retirees were still active pursing hobbies, programs at their churches and volunteering in the community. Despite this, the sole purposes for their visits the Town Center were to collect mail, go to the salon and have lunch. The activities became very transactional in nature.
The main lobby of the Town Center was an immense but empty hall, with an uninspiring fitness center. There was little common space to host scheduled activities let alone encourage spontaneous conversations of passing friends. There was one daily meal at the dining hall at midday as the agrarian community was long accustomed to having large lunches during their long workday.
Management at Legacy Point recognized these opportunities to enhance quality of life of their residents. Rachael Rangelov, national director of design and construction at Watermark Communities, parent company of Legacy Pointe, contacted Design Point, a firm dedicated solely to designing interiors. Kathleen Sportelli, senior interior designer at Design Point, was the project lead.
“The community had activity, but it did not have a place to sit and gather and host activities. Assisted living and senior living management likes to encourage residents to interact and be social. Meal time is the most ideal time to promote interaction, but Legacy Pointe only offered one meal per day,” says Sportelli. “There was a definite need for a secondary dining venue.”
As Rangelov and Sportelli discussed the opportunities at Legacy Pointe they quickly created a vision for the community. They wanted to add an informal café where residents could drop in and grab coffee or a snack and comfortably hang out. “We quickly formed the design around the idea of having a café,” says Sportelli. The first challenge was to see if management could staff the café. Management remained opened to the idea if the renovations could achieve the desired results.
The second challenge was to engage the residents and solicit feedback. “On all our projects we study the needs and uses of a facility and seek input from staff, residents and other users.” Sportelli and Rangelov hosted a meeting that saw strong resident turn out. The renovation ideas were quickly embraced and revolved around the café. “We were pleasantly surprised about the resident engagement and received a lot of good ideas. One women enjoyed opening Christmas presents with family by a fireplace and lamented that she could no longer do it. Another gentleman wanted a place to bring his grandchildren for games during visits,” recounts Sportelli. Residents also chimed in about other visions for the Town Center.
Sportelli and the team at DesignPoint put together a plan which was ultimately approved by Rangelov and Legacy Pointe management. The large lobby area was converted to a market café equipped with tables, chairs and other furniture that offered a comfortable and inviting social area. The café was structured to offer self-serve style sandwiches, salads, drinks and snacks paid for at the receptionist’s desk newly constructed next to the café. The culinary staff handled food preparation, stocking and maintenance of the café.
As a result of resident feedback a cozy family room complete with fireplace, and a game room with a billiards and ping-pong tables were added. Management also wanted to revamp its underutilized wellness program so the exercise room received a face-lift too. That included bright, inspiring colors, the installation of mirrors, new equipment as well as an exam, locker and massage rooms. The new exercise facility now has structured programming and greater usage. The beauty salon also received renovations and has become busier as a result.
The 18-month renovation was completed in 2013 and the residents love the new Town Center. Occupancy has also jumped at Legacy Point. The success of the project can be best represented by a couple who look forward to their weekly trip to the Town Center. They walk down together from their condo and she goes to the salon to “get fancied up,” while he enjoys a cup of coffee and laughs with his friends at the café.
Residents and visitors continue to remark about the beauty of Legacy Pointe, but what they really like is all the friends they make at the Town Center.