CDA at Environments For Aging

Jun 30, 2023

Environments for Aging Conference + Expo is the ultimate networking, education, and product-sourcing event in senior living design. With our extensive work in the senior living sector, our team is always eager to attend EFA to see new products, learn about the latest research, trends, and strategies, and make sure we are always up to date on the best ways to meet the needs of our aging population. The following is a brief recap of EFA from CDA Senior Design Manager Meg Stevens and Senior Designer Kaitlynn Howell.

Meg: Look at us, we were so happy to be in Charlotte for the EFA Conference this year. It was wonderful to be in the south and escape the Chicago weather!

Kaitlynn: The conference kicked off early Sunday morning with an amazing keynote presentation by Vijay Gupta, the founder and artistic director of Street Symphony. Vijay is a violinist in the Los Angeles Philharmonic and he started a project where he goes into prisons, homeless communities, and aging populations and does therapy through music. It was totally unexpected, but his performance was amazing and he had us all singing together.

Meg: It was very out-of-the-box and he got the crowd on our feet. All of us were like, “What? We’re singing? You want us to stand up?” And he was like “Yeah, we’re doing this. We’re going do this and it’s going be amazing.” He was right - it was a transformative experience and set the tone for the conference by focusing on the services and experiences we can provide to aging communities.

Meg:  After the keynote speaker, the first seminar I attended was “Design that Matters: The Case for Excellence in Affordable Senior Housing,” led by Shirah Kasongo Cahill. We share a mutual connection in the industry, so I was looking forward to hearing her speak. Shirah is a landscape architect, and her partner is an interior designer.

They designed an affordable housing community in 2016 in upstate New York and recently went back to see how it was performing and survey the residents. They shared the all the feedback in the session, the good and the bad, which was really valuable to learn from, as a fellow interior designer.

One example of feedback was the connections to the outdoors – the site was located within walking distance to local shops which promoted more walking and being active. But one miss was making sure the main entrance was accessible for people in wheelchairs. If it’s difficult to enter and leave the building, they are less likely to walk to those shops.

Kaitlynn: One seminar that I got a lot out of was “Mixing It Up! Changing from Age-Segregated to Intergenerational.” The topic of intergenerational living has been trending for the past several years in senior living. This concept explores the benefits of multiple generations interacting and co-mingling – as an example, building a senior living community close to a college so that residents of both can take advantage of common amenities and enjoy each other. This seminar specifically explored a senior living model of creating a central town square with businesses open to senior living residents as well as the general public.

Kaitlynn: After the seminars, there is a trade show where vendors and manufacturers display their product. This is Kwalu. They were extremely gracious and sponsored a party as well as sponsoring our attendance to EFA. On top of that, they are really wonderful to work with! 

Meg: And they know how to throw a party!

Meg: The show had a lot of vendors that we love to work with. Shaw Contract had a booth showing off their Anthology collection. 

Meg Stevens: Creative A had a really fun booth with books that had been mounted and painted. Woodbridge Hospitality had a demo of a puzzle table that pitches up with a felt backing, so the puzzle pieces stay in place.

Kaitlynn: Of course, some of the most memorable parts of attending a conference is making spontaneous connections with people in the industry. 

Meg: Our favorite was the networking party thrown at the NASCAR Hall of Fame – we had a blast.  

Meg: Well, Kaitlynn, thank you for being my conference show buddy and attending this awesome show with me – it was fun experiencing the show with you and the connections we made!  

Kaitlynn: Of course, I’m looking forward to next year!