Baby boomers have a huge influence on health care. By 2029, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates a 73 percent increase in Americans 65 and older, bringing the number to 71 million. In 2013, that number was 44.3 million. As this population wave continues to age, its effect on how the health care system is structured will only strengthen, and that goes for the health facilities, too.
As baby boomers embrace the concept of aging in place, many prefer to adjust their homes to meet their lifestyles. Health care facilities (and we're not just talking about nursing homes and senior living facilities) have taken notice, and some are adopting the same mindset.
In fact, a Texas-based health care group has opened two Dallas-area clinics specifically for Medicare patients. The outpatient "Your Health Centers" were designed specifically with seniors in mind: Automatic doors make easy access for those with canes or in wheelchairs, and 10-by-12 exam rooms create a bit more room to accommodate patients and family caregivers vs. the typical 10-by-10 rooms.
In a place such as "Your Health Center," design features tailored to seniors are expected. After all, they are its only clientele. However, the focus on designs that make things easier for older patients isn't limited to senior-specific facilities. General practice and multidisciplinary health facilities that serve all ages are taking boomer preferences into account as well.
In "Boomers put new demands on health care design," Joe Flower, co-author of Age Wave, says, "The baby boom generation is so significantly larger than the generations immediately before and after it that, basically, what the boomer wants, the boomer gets. If something is of concern to boomers, it becomes a concern nationally."
In the article, several architects talk about how their designs for health care clients have been influenced by the baby boomer patients, whose savvy, consumerlike mindsets have challenged them to come up with designs that are not only safe and accessible, but encompass a five-star hotel quality that doesn't inhibit clinical staff from doing their jobs.
That design balance can be a fine line to ride, but those who want to be successful will find a way. After all, once a standard has been set, it only tends to rise from there.