EFA Expo Keynote: Time For A New Model
At age 29, Ryan Frederick moved out of Silicon Valley and into an Atlanta retirement community, guided by the hunch that there had to be a way to improve the lives of seniors. But first, he had to understand how they lived.
He gained a lot of insight and made a lot of friends, including Betty, who didn’t mind being called a senior or eating her meals in the same dining room every day. She even loved playing bingo. But then Frederick talked to his mom, explaining to her that he was on a quest to identify how to create a place where she would one day want to live.
The problem: His mom had no interest in dining in the same space every day, never wanted to be called a senior, and doesn’t like bingo.
It was at that moment that Frederick realized consumer preferences were quickly evolving with the baby boomers. At the advent of an era of longevity—where lifestyle stands to trump DNA in determining life expectancy, so long as individuals have purpose and are physically active and socially connected—it became apparent to him that new housing solutions would be required to support individuals well into their 90s.
And that’s how Frederick’s career got started on its current trajectory. He shared his story and the work it’s resulted in during a keynote presentation at the recent Environments for Aging Expo & Conference held in April in Savannah, Ga.
As the founder and CEO of Smart Living 360, Frederick works toward creating a future where seniors aren’t in age-restricted housing feeling isolated but rather in walkable mixed-use locations where intergenerational encounters are the norm. The operating model is one that provides à la carte services like meal delivery, home care, or transportation, rather than those being bundled into monthly fees.
One result of this vision is apartment building The Stories in Rockville, Md., that was developed without age in mind but incorporates necessary design elements like grab bars and slip-resistant tiles and common areas that support socialization and even telehealth.
The goal is to assist aging in place, all while bringing multiple generations together. And it’s worked. Frederick contended that the rent is half of what a comparable senior living community would be and that residents of all ages are content.
It captures the challenge he presented to the EFA Expo audience, too—to create designs that help people thrive throughout their lifespan and not just at the end, when research shows we’re actually generally a lot happier than we are in our 30s and 40s.
“I think we are in a period of transition—and opportunity,” he said. Frederick sees a future with the requirements we all have to be social, active, and connected being better supported by the environments where we live. “Today, we’re not doing that very well.”
Frederick urged designers to be a voice at the table and think about community from a much broader perspective than senior living, to help design attractive, purposeful models that are successful and lucrative, too. After all, he said, designers will ultimately become consumers.
And, Frederick added, despite his own work, what his mom wants still doesn’t exist.