Timeless & ageless

Assisted-living communities don’t typically point to design that’s engaging, thoughtful and inspiring. But designer David Ashen, founder of dash design, is challenging this, changing the paradigm of assisted-living design.

Assisted-living and memory-care community Heartis Yardley in Yardley, PA, is giving seniors not only a place to live, but to thrive, all amongst inspiring design.

“I was a little puzzled at first and thought, ‘Could I handle it?’” Ashen told InspireDesign. The designer knows the area well, growing up not too far from the senior-living community, but still felt challenged designing for a traditional building, when his style tends to be more eclectic and modern.

The seasoned hospitality designer used this as fuel to the fire, however, staying inspired by the building’s charm and his childhood nostalgia.

“The work we do is driven by the brands we work with; it’s not about a look we have, but channeling what the place is about—and that’s what helped,” Ashen said. “We had to understand the place and make something that’s not only relevant for the location, but also interesting and relevant for the person who’s going to be living there.”

Along with Heartis Yardley’s ample public spaces, the senior-living community includes cafés and restaurants, a salon, a bar and, notably, a connection to the outdoors with enclosed courtyards.

“People walk in and smile,” Ashen said. “The developer, Caddis Healthcare Real Estate, put a lot of effort into changing the perception of what assisted living and memory care can be; it’s light-filled,” Ashen said.

Design, for Ashen, is about improving the lives of everyone, everywhere, regardless of age—and it’s a major reason why the hospitality designer chose to take his talents to senior-living design.

“It’s really about improving people’s experiences,” Ashen noted. “I think design is even more relevant in senior living. Design can really affect how someone feels about themselves, their emotional states, the ability to function, and their sleep. This is their world.”

Along with outdoor spaces, dash design added elements to stimulate memory and build curiosity. And location plays a part in this. There are horse country and landscape references throughout the property, which is especially helpful to residents who are, by and large, from the area.

The hope is that thoughtful design can change the overall perception about assisted-living communities. Ashen wants residents and their family members to walk in and see the space not as a place that’s going to hinder freedom, but as a place that will revitalize, activate and keep seniors stimulated longer.

That notion that aligns with the mission of the recently created Ageless Living Collaborative (ALC), a 501c3 cofounded by Ashen and Phoebe Stein, president, Olive Presents, that is dedicated to improving outcomes for seniors. Looking through the lens of design, psychology, culture and communications, the nonprofit (for more, check out agelesslivingcollaborative.org) aims to provide free, industry-shifting information, so that together, the industry can develop optimum environments that are safer, healthier, humanistic and joyful for those who are being served and those who serve in the senior-living industry.