‘Small House’ Concept Creates Community for Staff, Residents

Design can be used to reduce isolation, encourage functionality

By Dan Davis, Presbyterian Senior Living

With every new generation we serve comes a new model for senior living and a new definition of what successful aging looks like. 

As leaders in offering senior living services, it’s crucial to plan ahead for what amenities and services the next generation will want and need as they age. Whether it’s health-focused programs or more affordable middle market housing, business leaders in the senior living industry are tasked with the challenge to uncover the ever-changing features that will appeal the most.

One of our latest projects at Presbyterian Senior Living is Parker House Assisted Living at Quincy Village, a continuing care retirement community (CCRC) in Waynesboro, Pa. The new “small house” design at Parker House is the first of its kind in the region. 

Parker House was built on the notion that assisted living could be done with a strong sense of community in mind. The new development features private suites for each resident, but differentiates itself from traditional assisted living with an open dining room, living room, kitchen and other areas meant to serve as a community. The “small house” design is meant to inspire interaction and decrease social isolation, while encouraging maximum functionality and self-confidence among residents.

The open kitchen concept was chosen to give residents the opportunity to participate in meal prep if they choose, helping residents stay active and engaged. The home-like configuration enables residents to feel secure and comfortable in a space where they can age in place and receive proper care and assistance as needed.

Providing healthy benefits

The Parker House design benefits residents’ health and well-being in a number of ways in addition to encouraging interpersonal relationships.

The small-house concept makes it so no matter where you are in the house, you’re only one hallway away from the dining room and main hall. By shortening the distance between private resident rooms and communal areas, we are working to reduce institutional-induced wheelchair use.

The layout also allows for fewer disruptions and less time spent moving to other locations for health services. Assisted living regulations typically permit those services to be provided on-site, while still maintaining a strong sense of privacy for residents.

The small-house model also has a positive impact on the job satisfaction of the staff.  While interpersonal relationships create a welcoming environment for residents, the personalized care and flexible levels of service by staff set the concept apart from other models for senior living and care. A dedicated group of skilled nurses and other staff work closely with the residents and become familiar with their unique care needs. 

The familiarity and rapport they establish makes it easy for staff to quickly adjust and even predict changes in the residents care plan.

The dynamic relationship between the care provider and resident negates the demand for a move to a skilled nursing center as needs progress. As a result, the residents experience an increased sense of stability in their living environment and are enabled to successfully age in place without the tumult of a sudden relocation.

From a human resources perspective, the small-house design attracts staff members who are seeking an engaging and fulfilling career. The employees are enabled to work with a tight-knit group of residents, sharing memories and aspirations over family-style dinners. Our skilled nurses and staff are given the opportunity to make a long-lasting connection with residents, building a consistent environment for both residents and staff alike.

The strong bond that forms acts as a deterrent to employee turnover, and the staff is encouraged to, and inevitably do, become part of the family. The stability of the staff at will prove to help regulate the residents’ schedules, emotions and also provide them with a sense of safety and reassurance that a familiar member of the staff is aware of their unique care preferences.

Making the community feel like a home

Every detail at Parker Home revolves around keeping the residents engaged and socialized. Access to a highly trained staff remains a must. But in addition to official care, residents build relationships with each other and create a supportive environment to age in place.

As we look ahead to what the next generation of senior living might look like, we’re confident this model will prove to be effective in providing maximum quality of life for assisted living residents. The small-house concept, for all its attention to detail and ingenuity, is also very simple: Create a place where residents can age with dignity by creating a unified, home-like environment.

As assisted living needs evolve, operators need to not keep up, but stay ahead. Innovating infrastructure is what is going to best provide for the seniors we currently serve, as well as generations to come.


Dan Davis is the vice president of continuing care operations at Presbyterian Senior Living.

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