A Golden Opportunity: Bringing our Senior Living Philosophy to China

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Working in planning and design means no two days are ever alike. Never has this been truer than on my recent trip to China where I spent a whirlwind seven days traveling from Jinan, Shanghai, and Dalian with SmithGroupJJR’s Dennis Cope and Cindy Xu to present the core goals for well-designed Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRC). This is the first time that our senior living group co-hosted a series of ‘salons,’—open dialogues held for a select audience of architects, developers, educators, and seniors.

I knew this trip would present several opportunities to share the exciting work we’ve been doing in Shanghai and to meet with local developers and potential clients. What I couldn’t have anticipated was how warm, hospitable, and truly engaged our audiences were.

Dennis’ salon presentation touched on the six core design goals for a CCRC, including independence, security, social integration, connections with nature, maintaining linkages to the wider community, and fostering a sense of pride in one’s environment. While each salon was well received, the informal Q&A sessions made the experience truly memorable. Questions touched on two of our successful senior living projects in Shanghai and Tianjin; lessons learned; the differences between the US, Japan, and current China senior living markets; and how to best educate clients who are new to senior living but looking to get involved. We also introduced some recommendations on how to develop profitable senior living projects in China, not only from the real estate development and architectural perspective but also to emphasize that having operators onboard early on is a key to successful senior living project development.

Besides our senior living expertise, we also spoke a little bit about our healthcare expertise. One audience member asked a question about how to make connections and introduce healthcare systems to provide care in the senior living communities. We used our Shanghai Jade Tower CCRC, which is SmithGroupJJR’s first high-end CCRC project in China, to tell a perfect story. Back in early 2000, SmithGroupJJR designed Shanghai Shuguang Traditional Medicine Hospital, which is a well-known hospital in the nation. Shuguang Hospital has reached an agreement with our Shanghai Jade Tower client, Vcanland, to provide care to the residents in this CCRC community. We are thrilled to see how our two projects came together, a strong showcase of both of our senior living and healthcare expertise.

What struck me most about this trip was the passion and interest all those in attendance had toward improving senior living facilities in China. Cities like Dalian are ideal communities for retirement. Pleasant weather, clean air, and affordability make it a promising market for senior living. I’m excited to return to China to further develop these relationships and create vibrant, inspiring spaces for seniors to call home. And a special thanks to FREEN Design and Landsea for hosting SmithGroupJJR and making the salons possible.

Cindy, Lin, and Dennis gathering around FREEN’s tea room before the salon.

Cindy, Lin, and Dennis gathering around FREEN’s tea room before the salon.

The salon audiences ranged in size from 25-100. Those in attendance had an interest in senior living and included a mix of design developers, operators, local architects, and students.

The salon audiences ranged in size from 25-100. Those in attendance had an interest in senior living and included a mix of design developers, operators, local architects, and students.

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Dennis presented on designing for seniors in China, touching on both challenges and opportunities, while Lin provided translation services.

Dennis presented on designing for seniors in China, touching on both challenges and opportunities, while Lin provided translation services.

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The lively Q&A session yielded a variety of questions, particularly related to SmithGroupJJR’s growing China portfolio.

The lively Q&A session yielded a variety of questions, particularly related to SmithGroupJJR’s growing China portfolio.

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The team also toured FREEN's studio space, interacting with experimental product and industrial design.

The team also toured FREEN’s studio space, interacting with experimental product and industrial design.

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The many perks of business travel! Dennis enjoys a gourmet, executive lunch, courtesy of a flight delay.

The many perks of business travel! Dennis enjoys a gourmet, executive lunch, courtesy of a flight delay.

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One thought on “A Golden Opportunity: Bringing our Senior Living Philosophy to China

  1. Simon Bruce

    Lin: Thank you for sharing your insights about your recent successful trip to China. I was particularly impressed with the success of the Salons you held with Dennis Cope and Cindy Xu. I know that these take a lot of preparation and organization to do well and be effective. I was particularly interested in how you were able to link our healthcare experience with senior living with the operational connections being made between the Shanghai Jade Tower and Shuguang Hospital. There appear to be great opportunities here.

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