Voices: Melissa C. Pritchard, Managing Director, SFCS Inc.
This article is sponsored by SFCS Inc. In this Voices interview, Senior Housing News sits down with Melissa C. Pritchard, Managing Director, SFCS Inc., to talk about the innovative and thoughtful approach taken by SFCS Inc. in designing living spaces for seniors, as well as what they are doing to help major industry follow suit. She explains her discovery of senior living design and how her passion helps SFCS stay ahead of the industry’s most pressing trends. She also discusses the By Design conference and its impact on the industry in general.
Senior Housing News: What life experiences do you draw from most in your role today?
Melissa Pritchard: I was born to older parents, and the reality of aging is very personal to me. My parents and grandparents were older than my peers’ generation, and from an early age, I was sensitive to the concept of age and its implications. Watching their loved ones struggle with environments that created barriers and made their lives more challenging, astounded me. Now, these experiences are the foundation of our work, driving our mission to improve the lives of those we serve. We are committed to supporting providers, all with the ultimate goal of benefiting the residents they care for.
Why is senior-friendly design your passion?
I fully believe that with the right design, research, and a thoughtful approach to the environment, we can enhance the aging experience. My motivation comes not only from professional conviction, but from deep personal experiences. The work we do is not just for the sake of work, it leads to meaningful and positive changes.
The truth is that, if we’re lucky, aging is an inevitable journey that each of us will begin. It is a shared human experience that we all expect, and it is our job to ensure it is as enriching as possible by minimizing the challenges. My passion is also rooted in the feeling that our society has moved away from appreciating the wisdom of age, something still cherished in other cultures. I believe there is a lot we can gain by restoring this respect and promoting a deeper understanding and connection to the aging process.
What is SFCS doing to stay ahead of these trends, and how do these perspectives play a role?
Staying on top of evolving trends in senior living is about comprehensive research and collaboration. Going deeper, this is not only limited to what happens within our team, but also extends to our cooperation with professional partners and our valued clients. Every project and every challenge is an opportunity for us to grow and innovate.
We’re not just on the sidelines, we’re in the game, leading the way and diving deep into research projects. Our approach is a combination of research-based insights and designs rooted in evidence. Everything that happens in society, whether challenges, opportunities or technological breakthroughs, is related to the world of older people. By understanding these shifts and their impact on young people, we can anticipate and adapt to their impacts in the senior sector, always staying one step ahead.
Talk more about the By Design conference and its origins. How did you become?
By Design is our annual platform to dive into new ideas and trends. It was established 39 years ago, initially as an in-house workshop to educate our team about designs specifically designed for seniors. Over time, and with increasing interest from our customers, its range has expanded. It has gone from being primarily an internal event, to catering to a wider audience. Today, it is more than just a design-focused gathering. By design is no longer limited only to architecture. It has been transformed into a structured conference, focusing on the broader challenges and opportunities in the senior living sector while envisioning the future environment for older individuals.
What are the benefits of attending the By Design program annually?
What I often highlight, and what attendees echo, is that it stands out as the most intellectually stimulating event they participate in every year. We provide current and compelling content. We ensure broad coverage of topics, providing the latest thinking and deep-rooted thought leadership. We craft our content based on real-time developments in the industry. It’s not about revisiting information from a year or two ago. Instead, it is designed to be relevant and useful for today’s senior living landscape.
What is your vision for the future of senior living design?
I have different hopes for the future of senior living design, and dream of a time when our efforts lead to spaces that foster vibrant, positive aging experiences. It is not just about traditional communities, but about the partnerships and connections that influence them. I anticipate a period when our clients will be able to confidently tell their residents that choosing to live with them is backed by data supporting longer lives, fewer physical challenges and sustainable cognitive abilities. It’s not just about living longer, it’s about ensuring that those extra years are filled with a good, healthy life.
In two words, complete this sentence: “In 2023, the senior care industry will be defined by…?”
…adaptation, transformation, opportunity. I think it’s determined by demographics, demand, dollars, and design. I think it is defined by endless possibilities. I think the real question is, what are we all going to do with all of this? We are at a turning point. We have an opportunity before us to change what this means, what we look like and what we do. I think the real question is: Are we bold enough to do this?
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity
For more than 80 years, SFCS has planned, designed, and provided services to hundreds of senior living communities across the United States. Our architects, engineers and interior designers specialize in designing for seniors and we believe that research and collaboration are the keys to innovation and design excellence. As research-based thought leaders for seniors, SFCS is deeply committed to creating the next generation of senior housing environments, incorporating high value and innovative design. Our dedication to design for seniors has led us to become a distinguished educational provider, trend setter, and trusted partner in senior care. To learn more about By Design, sign up for our mailing list here: https://form.jotform.com/231033699317054
The Voices Series is a sponsored content program featuring top executives discussing the trends, topics, and more shaping their industry in a Q&A format. For more information about votes, please contact (email protected).