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Future of the Building Industry and Senior Living

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On May 23 – 24, 2022, Sam Shelhorn represented Professional Engineering Consultants at the Future of the Building Industry- Opportunities of an Aging Population in Omaha, NE. The workshop was hosted by the University of Nebraska and connected academia who research the aging population with designers / builders / operators of senior living to discover market trends.

Key speakers included a variety of healthcare professionals from relevant firms and facilities like McNair Living, Building4Health, and the UNMC Department of Internal Medicine’s Division of Geriatrics, Gerontology, and Palliative Care Medicine.

The main objective was to present the status of elder care, showing the trends and challenges. Workshops were utilized to team academia and industry professionals to submit solutions to challenges. One of the main discussions in this conference was how design, construction, and operation may help create an efficient yet friendly environment to existing and new independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing, memory care, and hospice facilities.

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Most Baby Boomers do not want or need senior living yet and prefer to age in place. There are many reasons for this. First, they often value their independence and being able to stay put in their family home. Second, the cost of quality, up-to-date facilities ranges from $7,000- $12,000 monthly. Current senior living facilities could be considered outdated and tired, with an average age of 44 years. These facilities may also be hurting to keep appropriate staff levels due to what has been dubbed ‘the great resignation.’


Senior living’s reputation took a hit during COVID-19 due outbreak among the aging population. Although this was unfortunate, senior living facilities proved to be one of the safest places to be during the pandemic. COVID-19 related deaths in senior living facilities averaged .42/1000, substantially below the national average. Not allowing visitors was more devastating to senior living residents than the virus.


Micro trends for senior living were also a topic of discussion at the workshop. In 2020, studies showed that 52% of seniors lived in 55+ independent facilities. 7/10 seniors wanted to or needed to work as their health allowed. 34% of people aged 65 and over were still supporting other family members.

When the pandemic arose in 2020, it caused professionals to look for new ways to prevent the spread of germs and disease through design and process. Included in this design process, was addressing the need for intergenerational design to create a friendly atmosphere for children, families, and friends to visit. To address this issue, a co-living concept was developed which would allow 4-8 residents to live together as a ‘family’ but offer private spaces for everyone. Residents would be in control of their private living environment, and they would have access to indoor and outdoor fresh air.

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At the workshop, panel recommendations were discussed in terms of what could be done to meet the needs of the older generations. The first step is touring and talking with administrators and staff before the design process even begins. AE also needs to pay attention to outdoor spaces because residents want access to nature. Included in outdoor spaces, residents who had a garden in their previous home may also want to garden at a senior living facility, so it is important for AE to design gardens with wheelchair access. Gardening often provides a sense of wellbeing and accomplishment for residents.

The panel recommended that technology needs to be incorporated. This includes putting in smart home, telemedicine, and connected living platforms throughout the facilities. An increasing number of residents are tech savvy and will be savvier as time passes. AE must also discover how to offer all these benefits without raising overall cost. Ultimately, these new additions to senior living facilities will attract new residents, promote happier and healthier residents and will also attract and retain workers.

SMART BUILDINGS Sam’s break out group, which included a physician, PhDs, and PhD candidates, and an engineering professor, was given three hours to discuss SMART Buildings and how the use of technology will make a facility more efficient, attractive, economical, safe, and comfortable for residents. Below is a basic outline of what was discussed.


  • To enhance resident satisfaction and care
  • To reduce staff stress and workload


  • Provide residents a sense of independence (autonomy) by controlling their environment
  • Provide Promote higher standards of safety with fall sensors and resident health telemetry to be monitored by staff
  • Staff attraction/retention allowing staff to concentrate on core tasks and reduce interruptions


  • Technology to provide independent temperature, lighting, and shade control
  • Technology to provide tracking for residents’ health and send alerts when health status changes


  • Residents gain autonomy
  •  Closer monitoring of resident health
  •  Staff will have more time for core duties and may reduce staffing
  •  Long term cost savings
  •  Attracts more residents
Shelhorn Sam SIZED FOR WEB


Sam graduated in 1990 from MidAmerica Nazarene University ­­­with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and Human Resources. In 2000, he earned his MBA in Business Administration from MidAmerica Nazarene University.

Sam has worked at PEC since early 2017 and is responsible for business development within the Kansas City Metro, Lawrence, and surrounding areas.