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Old-fashioned interiors? Senior Design becomes trendy

Designers must consider flooring, lighting and accessibility issues

February 28, 2009

"I've been doing this for 23 years and it's taken me that long to become an overnight success," Joanna Marowits says jokingly.

"All of a sudden, senior design has become trendy. My theory is that it wasn't a sexy enough topic until now. There's not one TV design show on how to decorate for seniors."

Marowits, a gerontologist and interior designer, is founder of Body + Soul Design, a Toronto firm which offers consulting on planning, development and design for everything from high-end condos for older buyers to palliative care facilities.

She has also launched a line of furniture that is ergonomically designed for seniors to allow them to get in and out of sofas and chairs easily.

Marowits says many condo developers haven't built projects that will allow their empty nesters to age in place as they get older.

"How many projects, for example, have shiny marble floors in their foyers?" she says, pointing out that this slippery flooring can be a hazard to older residents.

Many condo buildings don't think about transitions between flooring in suites to make for ease of movement with a walker or cane, or that aging eyes need extra lighting.

Fortunately, she says, the bulk of the population will age gracefully, but they will need accommodations that will allow them to do so.

The projects that will succeed will be those that have good operations and services geared to this demographic, not just a nice building, Marowits says.

With the wave of baby boomers approaching their golden years, builders will have to pay closer attention, she notes.

Many senior condo buyers will be downsizing from large homes and will be attracted by the "cruise ship lifestyle" that well-done projects can offer.

"I don't think the market has been studied effectively to profile the senior buyer," says Marowits.

"Seniors' buildings do cost more ... you need an operator to run them. But there's a huge opportunity."

- Tracy Hanes

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