Reimagining Aging Communities

Hollwich Kushner and Morningside Retirement & Health Services (MRHS) are pleased to announce the opening of their new community facilities. The space is designed around the principles laid out by Matthias Hollwich in his book New Aging: Live Smarter Now to Live Better Forever. Published by Penguin in 2016, the book is a call to action for people to reshape the places where they live so that they can age in place. The completion of the MRHS space brings Matthias’ manifesto for aging to life.

Located in Morningside Gardens, MRHS provides programming for a Naturally Occurring Retirement Community (NORC) and draws on expertise from neighboring Morningside Heights institutions. Now, through the renovation of its community center and office space, MRHS will set a new standard in the design of spaces that serve older adults within the community.

“Everything at MRHS is possible because of the strength and importance of community at Morningside Gardens. Most importantly, the new space builds community through its innovative and universal design,” says Paul Nikolaidis, Development Officer at MRHS.

The design for the new spaces at Morningside Gardens redefine what a community center for older adults can be by fostering interactions between staff, residents, and visitors. A redesign of the foyer provides a visual connection to the newly designed Media Lounge, giving visitors an informal gathering space where they can feel comfortable lingering before, and after, their scheduled activity, as well as fostering interaction between the staff and other visitors in a more casual setting.

The space reveals areas that cater to the wide variety of activities at MRHS and unfolds in a series of informal and formal meeting points for individuals, friends, and groups. A flexible partition with the ability to provide acoustical separation introduces an adaptable space for a variety of activities, and audiences throughout the day. Permanent seating along the perimeter, combined with integrated cabinetry, creates a unified space that can host a diverse range of events and programs, while always remaining comfortable and inviting.

“Looking through the lens of older people enables us to eliminate all kind of flaws in today’s urban and building designs. We see apartments that isolate people from their communities, bathrooms that are difficult to use in a wheelchair, and changes in elevation and surface that hinder easy movement. When we’re young we can run up stairs and move from room to room to compensate for architectural barriers, but as we age these flaws turn into deal-breakers for living a happy, healthy, and long life in your own home and community. Longevity is today’s mega trend. When designing through the lens of older people we generate better solutions for all of us,” says Matthias Hollwich

Embedded in cabinetry, walls, and furniture, a handrail detail is subtly integrated throughout each room. This design element visually unites the entire facility, helps oneself orient within a space, and provides additional stability for visitors to MRHS who might need extra support. Special consideration is given to color, lighting and materials, to craft a 360-degree environment that is age-friendly. Tools like color contrast, seamless floors and integrated grab rails take it a step further to create a new space for MRHS and the many residents that call it home, as well as a new prototype for age-friendly design.

“Morningside Gardens is an oasis in New York City, and serves as a model for all retirement communities, especially, as the focus in caring for older adults moves from institutional to community-based care.” Daniel O’Donnell, Assembly Member, District 69

  • Location: New York, NY
  • Status: Built
  • Client: Morningside Retirement & Health Services (MRHS)
  • Team: Matthias Hollwich, AIA Marc Kushner, AIA Alda Ly, Jordan Doane, Todd Shapiro
  • Interior Designer: Wagner Interior Architecture & Consulting
  • General Contractor: EJ York
  • Photographer: Michael Moran