While the push for “green” initiatives in senior living communities is not a new concept, the changing demographics entering senior living facilities continue to push the movement forward.
By 2030 all baby boomers will be at least 65 years of age and currently about 10,000 boomers turn 65 each day. Baby boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, are more focused on sustainability than their elders and are making sustainable living a priority during their retirement years.
According to a study done by the Mather Institute, more than 90% of baby boomers surveyed say “they’re willing to make future changes in the way they live and work to help protect the environment.”
These changes include building architecture, the use of sustainable resources, and a large emphasis on lifestyle choices including healthier eating, sustainable practices (like collecting rainwater), and living in an environment that encourages and supports health and wellness.
For aging adults, sustainability is directly tied to their daily practices and lifestyle choices. There is more consideration toward how they use resources, where items are sourced, and finding ways to make a difference with the activities they engage in daily.
Because of this, more senior living communities are focusing on sustainability initiatives that prioritize both seniors' well-being and the planet's health, creating a harmonious and eco-friendly living environment for the elderly.
The following are key features and benefits of these green communities, shedding light on why they continue to gain popularity in senior living communities.
One of the defining characteristics of green senior living communities is their commitment to sustainable architecture. Many companies focusing on new builds or renovating existing senior living facilities follow LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) principles.
LEED principles are globally recognized and are a comprehensive guide to sustainable living that lists the following principles:
· Reduce contribution to global climate change.
· Enhance individual human health.
· Protect and restore water resources.
· Protect and enhance biodiversity and ecosystem services.
· Promote sustainable and regenerative material cycles.
· Enhance community quality of life.
In terms of sustainable architecture, the emphasis is on using materials that are sustainably sourced or do not contain harmful chemicals or toxins. Eco-friendly materials meet certain LEED guidelines that help to minimize environmental impact as well as not being harmful to residents of the building.
Solar panels, energy-efficient appliances, and advanced insulation systems are commonly incorporated to reduce energy consumption and promote a greener lifestyle.
Living in an eco-friendly LEED-certified building can be a promising way to make an impact on the environment. “LEED-certified buildings consume 25 percent less energy, 11 percent less water, and CO2 emissions are reportedly 34 percent lower than buildings that aren’t LEED-certified,” and “cognitive scores were 61 percent higher for those in green building conditions,” according to a Harvard Study.
The benefits of living in an eco-friendly built environment extend beyond environmental health to human health as well. Seniors who prioritize health and wellness will be drawn to the opportunity to make an impact on both.
While the initial investment in sustainable technologies and designs may be higher, green senior living communities often prove to be cost-effective in the long run. Energy-efficient buildings and renewable energy sources contribute to lower utility bills, and sustainable practices reduce operational costs.
Additionally, the incorporation of green technologies may attract environmentally conscious residents, fostering a sense of community and shared values.
Compared to a 20-inch auto scrubber, Cobi uses 2.1 gallons less water per 5000 ft2 cleaned. For larger facilities and over time, the water savings add up.
Additionally, Cobi is powered by lithium-ion batteries that last longer than traditional batteries used in floor cleaning equipment, resulting in less landfill waste. Plus, compared to a 20-inch auto scrubber, Cobi uses 1.5 KwH per charge, which is half the power used by a 20-inch auto scrubber.
Cobi is also available through an all-inclusive subscription which means at the end of the 36-month term, the unit is returned to ICE Cobotics and they will refurbish the unit to be sent back out into the field. This helps contribute to less machinery being improperly disposed of or left to sit in a utility closet and forgotten.
Eco-friendly practices include using products that are free of toxic chemicals. This helps residents avoid exposure to chemicals and harmful substances that can make people sick.
“By adopting a green lifestyle, you can reduce the risk of illnesses such as cancer, asthma, and other respiratory diseases,” according to Airly, an air monitoring system company.
Another easy way to incorporate green living is by actively promoting eco-friendly practices throughout the community. Recycling programs, composting, and water conservation initiatives are often implemented to encourage sustainable habits.
Residents may participate in community gardening, further connecting with nature and fostering a sense of community responsibility for the environment.
Nature has profound benefits on mental and physical health, and green senior living communities recognize this by integrating lush green spaces into their design.
Beautiful gardens, walking paths, and communal green areas not only provide a serene and aesthetically pleasing environment but also offer spaces for relaxation, socialization, and physical activities.
According to one source, “Retirement communities that offer residents green spaces like community gardens or green initiatives like a recycling program result in stronger social relationships and less instances of depression.”
Living in a green senior community has been linked to positive effects on mental health. Access to natural light, outdoor spaces, and community gardening can contribute to reduced stress, increased happiness, and overall improved quality of life for residents.
The intentional design of these communities helps to recognize the importance of creating an environment that supports the mental and emotional well-being of seniors.
Beyond their commitment to environmental sustainability, senior living communities prioritize the health and well-being of their residents. Offering healthy food choices is just one way to support seniors looking to make health-conscious choices.
One survey indicated that four in five boomers are more food conscious, more attentive to food labels, and know more about the origins of their food products than they did in 1980.
The same survey showed that “more Americans -- boomers included -- are buying organic food items, and a larger percentage of their grocery purchases are organic products than they were in years past.”
Many green senior living communities offer organic and locally sourced meal options, fitness programs, and holistic wellness activities to help seniors keep on track with healthy eating and lifestyles. By combining sustainable living with health-centric amenities, these communities aim to create a holistic approach to senior care.
Green senior living communities are more than just a trend; they represent a conscious effort to create living spaces that prioritize both the elderly residents and the planet. By combining sustainable architecture, eco-friendly practices, and a focus on health and wellness, these communities offer a model for the future of senior living.
As the demand for environmentally conscious solutions continues to grow, green senior living communities are likely to become a standard in providing a high quality of life for our aging population while preserving the health of our planet.
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