Imagine a home for retirees outfitted with automated—height-adjustable cabinets, sinks, and countertops, smart flooring to detect falls, adjustable circadian lighting, and a basement gym and a SPA pool with an illusory skylight oculus that feels real, yet defies structural explanation. Welcome to the immersive home environment of Werner House—a 10,000+ sq. ft. century-old mansion refurbished with the most elegant and practical technology to help seniors comfortably and safely age-in-place.
The brain child of Lisa M. Cini, ASID, IIDA, the founder and CEO of Mosaic Design Studio, a leading senior living designer in the U.S., Werner House is a World War I French Opera mansion built back in 1914 that she conceived as a short term Airbnb rental. She envisioned this Woodland Manor Mansion as a place where senior living facility directors and designers, as well as community managers and family members could experience the technology embedded in the home environment first-hand.
“Whether it is proper lighting, no transitions in flooring, height-adjustable toilets, people can all gain independence and dignity,”1 says Lisa. With the rising costs of assisted living facilities across the U.S., ranging from $3,500/month in Alabama and $6,500/month in New Jersey, retirees are looking to stay home as long as possible.2
“It is my passion to help people understand what the possibilities are for aging so that they can retrofit their own homes or learn what tech to look for when selecting a retirement community,” adds Lisa.
At the same time, senior living facilities are looking for an edge with the hope that the latest technology in home care will help their properties provide a safe and secure environment, particularly at a time when recruiting and maintaining experienced staff has become both costly and time-consuming. The Covid-19 pandemic radically shifted the priorities of workers in the assisted living labor market and the industry is looking for ways to provide better service with the help of innovative solutions.
For the first time in more than a generation, healthcare staffers had to contend with colleagues falling ill or quitting in numbers, which meant shouldering longer shifts and accruing more responsibility since the start of the global outbreak in the spring of 2020. Burnout, the higher health risks associated with the work environment, and the childcare priorities of their own families saw many healthcare workers leave the labor pool at a time when many among the elderly were already on waiting lists to join retirement communities, assisted living and nursing home facilities across the country.
While recruitment efforts at every facility continue in earnest, projects like Werner House hope to address some of these concerns by featuring effective, tech-enabled products and evidence-based installations across the home environment of care spectrum. The refurbished home features furnishings and specialty home capabilities from top senior living furniture and specialty equipment manufacturers like Shaw, Williams Sonoma, Bose, Cambria, Pottery Barn, and Sky Factory among others.
The industry is looking for innovation at a time when the Baby Boom generation continues to swell the ranks of the retired population, a demographic shift that began in 2011 and is expected to last through 2029. According to the American Association of Retired Persons International (AARP), 10,000 Americans turn 65 every day. The organization notes that “the number of adults will more than double over the next several decades to top 88 million,” representing 20% of the population by 2050. 3
As a group, the so-called Silver Wave in America is placing a huge demand on every type of senior living service. At the same time, most seniors want to live independently as long as possible and with the help of nearby family, if that’s a realistic option. Others though will have to rely on the assistance of healthcare staff or the most affordable design technology. Furthermore, a number of socio-economic factors, including increased longevity, geographic dispersion among families, and persistent economic uncertainty, is forcing older adults to remain in the workforce longer and reconsider the finances for their long-term care. Staying at home is the most economical alternative.
Aging-in-place technology enhances the chances that this option may be feasible. Seniors can plan ahead and outfit their own homes with furnishings, installations, and smart devices that help them stay safe when living by themselves or enable their loved ones to better manage their care. Senior living facility directors and designers are also taking note to streamline their properties.
Lisa’s company, Infinite Living, conceived Werner House as a short term Airbnb rental, located in Columbus, OH, where visitors—whether industry professionals or residential shoppers—can experience the mansion’s innovative features and assess which ones would enhance their quality of life, increasing the level of safety and comfort at their communities or private residence. For example, what if the living room or community area was outfitted with an FDA-registered, Air Sanitizing Air Purifier that self-sanitizes, captures, and eliminates 99.9% of the COVID-19 airborne virus?
What if the flooring on every room would notify a family member or a caregiver if a resident fell on the 2nd floor or the bathroom? And what if those who are recovering from an ankle fracture or are recovering from an illness could enjoy the SPA pool in the basement and not feel claustrophobic at all as they wade in the hot/cold pool, enjoying the relaxing experience of an engrossing overhead view of the sky?
Sky Factory is featured among the 30+ specialty design/manufacturers whose products are installed in the refurbished interior of Werner House. “We’re so glad to be part of this immersive, aging-in-place showcase with one of our newest SkyCeilings—the Aperture, which features a unique mechanical design that further heightens the illusion of vertical volume overhead,” says Skye Witherspoon, C.E.O. of Sky Factory.
“Over the last 20 years, our research-verified Luminous SkyCeilings have been installed in numerous assisted living and nursing facilities, as well as memory care and sensorium spaces,” says Skye, “precisely because our biophilic illusions of natureTM enable isolated or enclosed interiors to gain a palpable measure of perceived proximity to the open sky. This environmental feature—a visual connection to nature—is one of the most effective ways to trigger an automated Relaxation Response in the physiology and psyche of a weary, distressed, or agitated resident.
“We always strive to provide the experience of our products first-hand, so the Werner House project was great because it expands our ability to take our therapeutic installations before the professional that evaluate their benefits and the people that need them most,” he adds.
However, as anyone involved in a refurbishing project knows—expect the unexpected. Lisa’s project was no calk walk. The process was long, difficult, and with its fair share of challenges, all of which are captured in a six-episode documentary series called Infinite Living: Secrets of The Werner House, now available for rent or purchase on Amazon.
Whether you choose to look at the process from the beginning to the end online or seek to book a stay at Werner House, you can learn more on the Infinity Living web site.
However, to experience the place in the flesh, you need to make an appointment. “Our short-term rental guests will be able to experience how the Infinite Living Collaboration transformed the mansion’s traditional beauty and grandeur with the most up-to-date functioning technology in a stylish manner that’s accessible to all,” notes Lisa.
1 Lisa M. Cini, First-of-its-Kind Technology Showcase Allows Seniors to Experience the Future of Design for Senior Living and Aging in Place. Business Wire. March 9, 2022. Retrieved from: https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20220309005248/en/First-of-its-Kind-Technology-Showplace-Allows-Seniors-to-Experience-the-Future-of-Design-for-Senior-Living-Aging-in-Place
2 Genworth. How Much Does Assisted Living Cost in the United States? Retrieved on Apr. 11, 2023, from: https://assistedlivinglocators.com/cost/average-cost-of-assisted-living
3 American Association of Retired People International. Aging Readiness Competitiveness Arc, United States. Retrieved on April 10, 2023 from: https://www.aarpinternational.org/initiatives/aging-readiness-competitiveness-arc/united-states