Healthy Aging in Supportive Housing: Featuring Susan Wright from IBI Group’s NYC Office

Healthy Aging in Supportive Housing: Featuring Susan Wright from IBI Group’s NYC Office

News, Press

Visuals from CSH, IBI Group, Selfhelp, and Goddard Riverside

As part of Corporation for Supportive Housing’s “Training Seminars” IBI Group participated in a webinar called “Design Features to Promote Safe and Healthy Aging in Supportive Housing”. It had over 230 attendees in 35 states plus viewers in Canada. CSH’s mission is to advance solutions through housing as a platform for services, to improve the lives of the vulnerable people. This includes maximizing public resources and building healthy communities. They believe housing solutions should be integrated into the way every community serves those most in need.

The panelists:

  • Jennifer Trepinski: Director of Loan Originations, CSH
  • Susan Wright: Managing Principal-NYC office, IBI Group
  • Samantha Pearce: Director, Housing Development & Sustainability, Selfhelp Community Services Inc.
  • Kimberly Wing: Program Director, Capitol Hall Social Services, Goddard Riverside Community Center

Jennifer Trepinski of CSH started the webinar and covered topics including: the aging population national trend, a graying homeless population, meeting the needs of tenants through the physical design of supportive housing, decreasing social isolation, and the future of technology to help the aging.

Today, 8.5 percent of people worldwide are aged 65 and over. By 2050, this percentage is projected to jump to nearly 17 percent of the world’s population.(Source: National Institute on Aging)

Samantha Pearce, Susan Wright, Kimberly Wing, Jennifer Trepinski

Susan Wright discussed the Aging in Place Guide for Building Owners, a publication of the NYC Mayor’s Office, NYC Dept for the Aging, AIA NY and NYAM.  The guide is full of recommendations for age-friendly upgrades to existing buildings.  It was designed to help building owners accommodate individuals to continue to live in their homes, rather than relocating to nursing care or specialized housing. The guide primarily addresses fall prevention, but also how to deal with social isolation and chronic health conditions that impact the elderly.

Aging In Place Guide for Building Owners and Tenants is available online.

“We must move towards integration of old and new generations in architecture.” Architect Susan Wright stated, “We need to believe in universal design for all. Architecture should encourage healthy living and help make cities a better place for everyone.”  Design can have a huge impact in helping the aged have a better life. Appropriate signage, colors, lighting, and furniture can help people feel more comfortable in their homes. Lobbies, entryways, bathrooms, kitchens, bedrooms, and living rooms can all be updated with simple improvements. As society adopts technology, more buildings are being updated with new technologies that help fight isolation.

Over 1.4 million New Yorkers are currently age 60 and older; by 2030, that number will rise to over 1.8 million, making seniors 20% of city residents. NYC Department for the Aging estimates that seniors will outnumber school-age children by 2030.(Source: New York Times, Aging in New York, June 2015)

Samantha described the renovation of an eight story 66-unit building built in 1990’s. It underwent a green retrofit in 2015, which included new heating equipment, updated high efficiency LED common area light fixtures, and low flow water fixtures, all to improve resident comfort.

All of Selfhelp’s new buildings contain units which are 100% handicap adaptable with well-sealed building envelopes, socialization areas, and technology incorporated into the design.

Selfhelp’s Technology Package includes access to the Virtual Senior Center.

Kimberly Wing is the Program Director of Capitol Hall Social Services of Goddard Riverside Community Center. The community center provides services to thousands of people each year. The recipients range in age from early childhood to older adults.

Capitol Hall Residence is a supportive housing site developed in 1983 for formerly homeless and low income individuals. The ten story building houses 201 individuals. All units are Single Room Occupancy for adults 18 years and older. 85% of Capitol Hall tenants are 55 years of age or older with 60% of tenants being 65 years of age or older. Their units are subsidized through federal project-based rental assistance, which allows tenants to pay no more than 30 percent of their income for rent.

Kimberly discussed common housing instability factors. They are loss of income, substance use, mental health factors, physical health factors and age related deterioration. Challenges often facing this population are an inability to manage medical conditions, mobility restrictions, and vision and hearing loss. There can also be cognitive/psychiatric decline with aging. With an inadequate income, nutrition can be hard to manage.

In 1998, Goddard Riverside opened this supportive residence after it had existed as run-down, abandoned building in Harlem. 18 years later, it’s still standing as a home to 34 residents.

In 2015 Capitol Hall underwent a $16.7 million dollar renovation which made the building friendlier for the aging. The building is now fully ADA accessible with renovations including ADA Door Opener Technology, lobby renovations, new bathroom layouts, a refresh to the common backyard, and updated common areas. Even the laundry room and medical area were updated.

Leaving the seminar, participants had a better understanding of the housing challenges facing aging residents. They learned how the built environment can sometimes work against those wishing to age in place. They will be able to identify key design features that promote accessibility and have potential for big impact. Embedded in the webinar are links to resources on how unit modifications are financed.


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