Eden Alternative: Five Architectural Responses for Senior Housing

This news segment is a great example of the how one senior care facility is preparing for the boom of baby boomers into senior care. They are using the principals of The Eden Alternative, which basically maintains that “the three plagues of loneliness, helplessness, and boredom” are as important to address as illness and disease.

The report goes on to discuss architectural changes that are being made to the facility to better reflect the Eden Alternative philosophy. In this case the changes are layout changes that involve organizing the rooms of individuals into nine-unit “homes.”

There are of course many ways to support the principals of the Eden Alternative architecturally. Here are five that come to mind:

  1. Give living units a “front door.” The front door can open onto a common space or habitable hallway that sees a high amount of activity coming and going. Ideally the living unit would have a personal space outside the front door large enough for a holiday display or a rocker.
  2. Give living units a “back door.” A unit’s back door should open to the outside (and we should come up with ways to achieve this even in memory units) to give each resident a personal outdoor space. Again ideally, this personal outdoor space could have a gate allowing for personal control but also allowing access to a larger common outdoor space.
  3. At least one amenity such as the dining area, activity room, game room etc. could be split in to pods so as to make that activity available in EACH “neighborhood” of living units. This helps residents develop a smaller more intimate sense of community around a daily activity.
  4. There could be a place for visiting children to play in each neighborhood of living units. This would mean that a child’s visit would benefit more residents than just the one being visited.
  5. Just as architects are charged with hiding the workings of computers and AV equipment, we should also do our best to conceal the necessary technologies used for healthcare. These tools, while necessary, can make a place feel like a hospital and not like a home.

I can thank my mother for sending me the link about The Eden Alternative. It’s a great example of how senior care and senior housing is important to ALL of us. My mom started reading about the Eden Alternative after a senior housing conversation that we had together.


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