PRDG Newsletter

Architectural Trends Remain Fluid in Senior Living Design

As the nation’s senior population continues to expand, we called on PRDG architect Tyler Washburn to describe some of the most prominent trends he’s seeing in senior community design.

Here's a Rundown of the Major Trends we're Observing

  • There’s an increase in higher-density senior living communities as well as more urban sites. Why? Reasons behind this trend include increasing difficulty in finding affordable, large parcels of land. Costs are becoming about the same whether in an urban or exurban location. That’s why, in more dense cities, we’re seeing adaptive re-use of existing buildings such as former hotels, hospitals, even office buildings. To a degree, this is also driven by residents’ desires to be closer to family and good transportation. The greatest factors are rising land, labor and materials costs and the entire financial impact on new community development. That’s why we we’re seeing redevelopment of older senior communities.

  • An enormous trend is a greater focus on hospitality-style services, amenities and active environments. Traditional “nursing homes” are becoming a thing of the past. Resort-style design, furnishings, activities, and competitive dining choices are expected by more active, youthful seniors who are willing to pay for more amenities and entertainment.

  • Much more attention is being paid to operational staff retention in senior communities. Architects are taking an environmental approach—offering more comfortable and convenient break rooms, better dining amenities, more accessible office space, more outdoor light.

  • Senior living communities are marketing to acquire residents at earlier ages. The lower end of admission is now 55, with 82 being the oldest average admission age.

  • A vast shift in residential designations and designs is occurring. Today’s trends lean more toward Independent Living, Assisted Living and Memory Care. Some say Independent Living is the new Assisted Living, and Assisted Living is the new Skilled Nursing environment. Even the Skilled Nursing environment is shifting, with a heavier focus on Rehabilitation and Short-term Rehabilitation.

  • Overall, architects, developers and owners are having to look at a case of balance and scale. For example, wood construction is less costly than concrete. Yet code compliance vs. cost is always the challenge. The struggle for architects’ clients is always to decide how many units to build, pricing according to what the market will bear, and limits on desirable innovation due to cost.


Instead of going off to Italy or Spain for a year of study abroad, Texas A&M College of Architecture student Mitchell Apple chose PRDG Senior Living Architecture as the site of his third-year internship.

Majoring in environmental design, with a minor in urban development, Mitchell will next enter a master’s degree program in architecture. “I chose to do an internship in the States because I wanted to gain more experience in actually working within an architecture firm,” he explained. “Until now I never thought about specializing in senior living architecture,” Mitchell said, “yet I’ve found the best of all possible programs that= address my primary interests in custom housing and healthcare architecture.”

Mitchell works under the supervision of A&M faculty advisor Rachel Wales. In his internship he’s learning how to design to code restrictions and site limitations. “I’m also learning how the design process occurs in an actual architectural practice, which is a lot different from being in a design studio at the university,” he added. “Anywhere I can have an impact on someone’s life experience is something that really interests me.” Mitchell is PRDG’s third student intern; the first in the firm’s five-year history is now a full-time team member.

Mitchell grew up in the Dallas suburb of Coppell and attended New Tech High School there. “It wasn’t the usual high school format but, rather, we learned everything through individual and group projects instead of from textbooks and taking tests,” he said. “Actually, this better prepared me for working in architecture because most firms work in design teams.”

“At PRDG I most value my coworkers’ wisdom as architects and individuals,” Mitchell added. “In learning about their different backgrounds, expertise and experiences I’m coming to know how their careers and lives were shaped into who they are today.”

Outside the design studio, the Texas Aggie enjoys family time, being outdoors, traveling to the oceans, and experiencing different cultures.


Mark your calendar for April 21-24 in Savannah, GA, where PRDG Senior Living Architecture will receive a 2018 Award of Merit for design of Dallas’ T. Boone Pickens Hospice and Palliative Care Center.

Joining PRDG in collaboration on the project were Faulkner Design Group for interiors and MESA Design Group for landscape design, also of Dallas.

This award is especially significant since it is presented by the Environments for Aging Expo & Conference, the most comprehensive conference in the senior living residential industry, in conjunction with The Society for the Advancement of Gerontological Environments (SAGE), The Center for Health Design, the International Interior Design Association, and the American Society of Interior Designers. Paul Donaldson, managing director of PRDG, noted that EFA brings together developers, owners, design professionals, product manufacturers, academia, aging specialists, and government officials to explore new ideas for creating environments that support people as they age.

Please see Hospice under the menu listing Projects for more information about this first-of-its-kind hospice and palliative care development in Dallas. Opened in 2017, it is owned by Presbyterian Communities and Services (PCS) of North Texas.


Jonah Hubbard

His third grade basketball coach, who had a background in architecture, encouraged Jonah Hubbard, 2017 Texas Tech University graduate, to pursue a master’s degree in architecture. “He used his architectural experience to help teach us about how the game of basketball worked and how we could be better players,” Jonah said.

Hired in January of this year by PRDG, Jonah said he is most interested by the end-user experiences in spaces architects create. “Designed spaces have a profound effect on people’s lives and that’s why I am so drawn to the residential side of architecture. “Yet,” he said, “I’m also developing a strong interest in the intricacies of the commercial construction process through my work at PRDG.”

On the personal side, Jonah grew up in the Texas Hill Country community of Round Rock but finished high school in the East Texas town of Canton. His parents and the family dog, Lady, still live there. Jonah’s younger sister currently attends Sam Houston State University in Huntsville. Jonah picked up a love for racquetball while at Texas Tech. In addition, he enjoys camping trips with friends, especially when there are mountains and hammocks involved. And he loves a good cup of coffee.

And what rule of life does this Texan live by? “Life is too complicated to have a singular viewpoint. But expecting the unexpected is how I like to approach things,” Jonah said. “You can’t truly control anything other than your own reaction to a given situation and proceeding with a level head tends to be the best option.”

Ly Siegel

What Indonesia native Ly Siegel likes best about working at PRDG is that, “Everyone is so welcoming, so resourceful and helpful—it is a place of wonderful inclusion.” Ly, who graduated from The University of Texas at Arlington in 2002, joined PRDG in January of this year. Her parents came to this country from Vietnam and brought up Ly in Coppell.

She was inspired to study architecture by her high school art teacher who placed heavy influence on the study of art and architectural history. At the end of the day Ly goes home to her husband Eric and their one-year-old son Hunter who, she says, “always keeps us on our toes.” As with many new mothers, Ly says her favorite time-out is spent resting. But she has other interests, including a love for Mid-Century Modern to Contemporary homes, home decorating, antiques shopping, and baking.

David Swan

Marketing associate David Swan was born in London and lived there until he was six. Regrettably, he said, “I lost my accent after my family moved to Wichita, Kansas.” A 2004 graduate of the University of Arizona, he majored in digital media arts. “I wanted to be a film editor originally, but after experiencing Los Angeles traffic I moved back to Phoenix and found my true calling in graphic design,” he recounts. As luck would have it, David chose a huge ice storm to accompany his move to Dallas in 2014. “I needed a change of scenery from beige and brown,” he explained. “I needed color and seasons in my life.” This graphics talent said he is “obsessed with sports in general.” Specifically, that would include the Manchester United “football” team in England, where David spent summers with his dad, and the 1997 National Champion Arizona Wildcats.

David’s other accomplishments have included winning the Good Samaritan Award for working with disabled students at his high school and winning honors from his collegiate fraternity, Phi Gamma Delta, for being “Best Person to be Stranded with on a Desert Island,” “Best Hair,” and “Most Likely to Get Away with Anything.”

And what does this lively designer think of his new post at PRDG? “It’s a fantastic place to work,” he said with great enthusiasm. “I’m honored to be part of the PRDG family. It’s a real team atmosphere-we all help each other."


PRDG has a wonderfully diverse team of talent from all over the nation. On February 21 it was The University of Texas at Austin’s turn to showcase its best and brightest during the school’s 2018 Career Fair.

Representatives from Dallas-area architecture firms gathered at the AT&T Conference Center for an informal meet-and-greet session before setting up afternoon interviews with promising employee candidates. “After lunch we set up 30-minute, semi-formal interviews in an open space where students and interviewing architects gathered throughout the day,” reported PRDG’s Peter Binder. Garrett Loontjer, Director of Career Services at UT-Austin, coordinated the annual event.

And what is the outcome of this Career Fair? According to Binder, it’s a great opportunity for participating firms to project their individual cultures to the visiting students. “We don’t have quotas for recruits or hard goals in a hiring sense,” he explained. “We’re happy to have contact with these talented students and hope to walk away with a few qualified resumes to call upon in the future.” Since hiring needs are always changing, Binder said some years may have more aggressive employment goals than others. To date, four of PRDG’s architects are UT-Austin alums.

Watch for other Career Fair announcements throughout the year.