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Aging brings with it biological, psychological, cognitive, and social changes. Older adults, however, are not a one-size-fits all group. The experience of aging varies from person to person, but from the perspective of the ecology of aging, older adulthood is a phase in life greatly influenced by the physical environment. It's these surroundings that can pose significant challenges but can also increase opportunities for aging well.
Individual differences and needs exist throughout this stage of life, as is evident in the increasingly diverse options available for independent living, assisted living, and memory care. Within these options the physical environment must be considered in how it positively or negatively impacts an older individual’s needs in relation to the social and cultural environment. In the balance between environment and needs, independent senior living communities can offer a combination of belonging and agency; "belonging reflects a sense of positive connection with other people and the environment…whereas agency refers to the process of becoming a change agent in one’s own life by means of intentional and proactive behaviors" (Wahl, Iwarsson & Oswald, 2012, p. 308).
Communal areas in independent living typically support connections between people and their environment. Artwork in a communal setting can support the creation of a positive connection by transforming a ‘space’ into a ‘place’. Aesthetically, it can mark and fill a space, adding texture and providing sensory pleasure. It can communicate and inspire stories, promoting imaginative and emotional engagement that can nurture new forms of belonging. And while its selection can be informed solely by a decorative approach that emphasizes a specific color scheme or style, the consideration of characteristics such as community demographics (e.g., age, gender, ethnicity, education), market segment psychographics (e.g., values, attitudes, interests), and culture can lead to a richer, more versatile art design.
The impact of artwork is often discounted, however, as a component of the physical environment it exerts influence on the individuals who inhabit senior living communities. Care and consideration in its selection and placement in independent senior living can contribute to a positive environment that responds to the changes that come with age while offering community and connection. 

We at Great American Art pay close attention to the diverse needs of art for independent living, as well as other types of facilities and industries. We’d be thrilled to work with you on your next project. Let us know how we can help on your art program.


Jeelan Bilal-Gore
Director of Art
Czaja, S. J., Boot, W. R., Charness, N., and Rogers, W. (2019) Designing for Older Adults. 3rdedn. Boca Raton: Taylor & Francis Group

Nahemow, L. and Lawton, M.P. (1973). Toward an Ecological Theory of Adaptation and Aging.

Rubinstein, R. (1989). The Home Environments of Older People: A Description of the Psychosocial Processes Linking Person to Place, Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences, 44 (2), S45-53.

Wahl, H & Oswald, F (2010). 'Environmental perspectives on ageing', in The sage handbook of social gerontology, SAGE Publications Ltd, London, pp. 111-124, viewed 20 August 2019, doi: 10.4135/9781446200933.n8.

Wahl H., Iwarsson, S., & Oswald, F. (2012). Aging Well and the Environment: Toward an Integrative Model and Research Agenda for the Future, The Gerontologist, (52) 3, 306-316. DOI: 10.1093/geront/gnr154