Today's senior citizens are not content to sit on their porches in a rocking chair. They're active. They're involved. And they're living longer.
Along with these changes in how senior citizens live come changes in the way they live.
Enter assemblageSTUDIO and the College Villas senior housing development.
The complex now under construction in Henderson has a youthful attitude, said Eric Strain, principal of assemblageSTUDIO, architect of the project.
"Seniors today are not the same as our grandparents. They are connected to the Internet. They are active. I wanted to create a place that was full of life and energy," Strain said.
Instead of a typical apartment complex with units on both sides of a long, enclosed hallway, College Villas' homes undulate around courtyards and balconies so that natural light and fresh air can flow through them without obstructions.
Not only does that help conserve energy, it promotes conversations and interactions between residents, he said.
The youthful attitude also comes across from the project's color palette, which includes shades of blue, gray, orange and chartreuse.
The development is a series of courtyard spaces, sitting areas and gardens, both on the ground level and on the roofs of the four-story buildings. Additionally, there is a pool, bocce court, space designated for yoga and grass areas.
The idea was to create spaces that invited residents to spend as much time outdoors as indoors, Strain said.
Each unit will include a ceiling fan, full kitchen and washer-dryer. Energy costs for living in the apartments will be held down by solar panels that are being installed through funding from a state grant.
Although the solar panels use technological advancements to keep living costs down, Strain said he relied more on design techniques to create shaded areas to protect residents from the heat as well as allow cool breezes to flow through the living areas.
Ground was broken in January on the age-restricted complex, which will feature 226 units. The apartments will range from 550 to 844 square feet and all except 12 will be one-bedroom units.
According to Strain, the project originally began as townhomes and was changed after city officials approved plans for a senior center in the area and developers saw a greater need for senior housing. Currently, 22 percent of Nevada's population is 55 or older, and by 2020 the state will have more than 530,000 residents who are 65 or older.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the average life expectancy for Americans rose to 77.7 in 2006, the last year statistics were available. It represents a .3 percent increase from the previous year and follows the same pattern that the department has seen for the past 30 years.
In Nevada, that will translate into a 147 percent growth in the number of senior citizens by 2050, Strain said.
College Villas is being developed by First Federal Realty DeSimone and State Sen. Mike Scheider, who represents Clark County District 11. It is expected to be completed in March 2012.
Strain said he worked with the builder, Burke Construction, to fine tune the details and keep construction costs down to make the project feasible without sacrificing the intent of the design. At $73 per square foot, this is the lowest price per square foot project Strain has ever worked on.
The lower construction costs and smaller size of the units also keeps the apartments more economical for its tenants.