Partnerships between the hospitality design and manufacturing communities have netted plenty of creative solutions in the lodging space over the years, but a recent collaboration could potentially also have a broad impact as it has resulted in a new line of custom furniture for senior living facilities.
Design firm Gensler partnered with The New Traditionalists—a U.S.-based manufacturing, design and engineering company—on the Elevate Collection, which has been touted as an innovative line of furniture that’s aesthetically built and designed specifically for senior living.
During a panel entitled “The New Traditionalists Collaboration 101: Rethinking The Norm For Senior Living” at last week’s HD Expo, the executives primarily involved in the development of the line offered some detail on the collaboration.
Brandon Larcom, director of product development, Gensler, commented. “At Gensler we said, ‘let’s create a line that can stand the test of time that is designed for seniors but really appreciated by everyone.’ Gensler was based on enhancing the human experience and as Philip [Erdoes, founder and CEO, The New Traditionalists] and I spoke a bit, it was aligned with what their vision was as well. How can we take just a traditional line of product and make it something that has research behind it?” he said.
Erdoes, meanwhile, acknowledged his own aging parents were part of the inspiration for the new line. “My rationale for going into it is necessity is the mother of all invention. When I looked around, what I saw was a whole bunch of crap. It was poorly designed and it hadn’t changed since the days of the nursing home. We were trying to figure out ‘can we do something else?’ So we entered the market over a year ago doing some levels of custom design stuff,” he said.
Erdoes later commented on the dearth of product in the senior living market. “I think people want to feel safe but not old, and that’s a hard thing to pull off with the current product lines that are out there…That’s an unfortunate part of the business right now, but that actually provides an opportunity and that’s why we’re here,” he noted.
Larcom further explained, “When Philip and I entered into this collaboration we both had that vision of ‘this is just the beginning of a new style of life, it’s not the end.’ Let’s actually elevate your style. Let’s have those great materials, let’s have something that doesn’t differentiate one [group] from the other and instead brings that full community together, so that was my passion and feeling for this.”
Erdoes noted the new Elevate Collection currently has some seven pieces, while adding, “we’re about to launch the rest of the collection.” He added between another seven to 10 pieces are expected to debut with six more collections around it.
Meanwhile, Larcom called attention to some of the line’s unique qualities, such as the seat height being 19 inches as opposed to the standard 17 inches making it easier for seniors to get in and out of. In addition, he noted the egress of the back of the design is at a 100 degree angle “so that you don’t lean too far back.”
Larcom further commented that seniors naturally tend to segregate as they get older, which the duo tried to address as well.
“As Philip and I connected, we really understood that that was our original goal—to create a collection that would bring different populations together. So in the design there’s a little bit of a workplace bench area which allows for a younger generation to come over and visit their grandparents or their aging family members. But you still need to have that differentiator,” he added.
Erdoes also underscored the need for differentiation, pointing out that often it’s the oldest daughters of parents who are making the decisions with regards to assisted living.
“They will go look at most three, maybe four facilities, and they’re usually pretty close to each other. So if you don’t have a way to differentiate your facility from a design standpoint, then all of a sudden it becomes how many bingo games there are. It’s just kind of all the same, and it becomes a price game. The problem with the price game is there’s no differentiation with that, and it’s a race to the bottom. So what we’re trying to provide is the ability to actually have design differentiation between your locations and other locations,” he stated.
Larcom acknowledged there’s been a shift in senior living to a more diverse age group; therefore any product must have broad appeal. “When we began to design this collection there’s a big difference between someone who’s 65 and someone who’s 80, but they may still like style. How can do you design it so it’s all encompassing? So that was another main focus for this collection,” he commented.
Erdoes finally touted the company’s inherent advantages with manufacturing capabilities in the U.S. “We have a very short supply chain so we can react very quickly for either replacements or of you need us to hold onto something. We find that historically it’s been a bit of a tricky issue for people; sometimes they want it fast, sometimes they don’t. But for us from a construction standpoint and an operational standpoint, we’re set up to actually address this market way differently than anyone else right now,” he concluded.