The Future Leaders Awards program is offered to you in partnership with PointClickCare. The program is designed to recognize promising members of the industry who are shaping the next decade in senior housing, skilled nursing, home care and palliative care. To see this year’s future leaders, visit Future online leaders.
Eric Harrmann, design director at AG Architecture, has been named Future Leader 2021 by parent company Aging Media Network of Senior Housing News.
To become a future leader, a person is nominated by his peers. The candidate should be a successful employee 40 years or younger, a passionate worker who knows how to put the vision into action, an advocate for seniors and committed professionals who care for their well-being.
Harrmann spoke with Senior Housing News to talk about how a college report on Frank Lloyd Wright laid the foundation for his career.
What attracted you to the retirement home?
In grade six, I was in a gifted program at school and wrote a report on Frank Lloyd Wright. Interestingly enough, I decided then that I was going to be an architect and that I was going to design places where people lived. There you go, I stuck to that.
I had a passion for designing places where people live, engage and interact with each other. I was originally drawn to the mixed-use aspect of larger scale developments. I worked on the relationship between multi-family components and senior residences, and discovered a passion for how seniors benefit from the environments we create.
What’s your biggest lesson learned in your career?
Two communities will never be seen in the same way. Much of the residents’ experiences are based on their experiences growing up – the culture of the community they come from. And that’s the inspiration for many different components, whether it’s activities, design style, or even how buildings are divided. If you approach each project as a unique opportunity to fit into the lifestyle, the culture of the community you are adapting to, it will make it a success. The approach where every feature created can be the same is the wrong one.
If you could change one thing for the future of seniors’ lives, what would it be?
We need to better understand intergenerational life. I recently made a presentation on the subject at a conference. Our presentation was one of six on intergenerational lifestyles, each taking a different approach to what intergenerational meant to them.
We need to look ahead and understand how each element of mixed-use development impacts adult children, the elderly, students, and how these elements can work together for the benefit of all. I come from a background where I worked on both senior and mixed-use multi-family residential projects. My colleagues joked about how the multi-family residential developer targets an empty nest. And we have a meeting with the senior community and they would talk about their average age of 81-82. We would like it to go down to the 70s. That means we have to attract some of these residents in their 60s. What does it look like? The answer was, it sounds like the multi-family project we designed for a different client. How to mix these two generations and bring everything together under one roof?
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What do you think will be different in the lives of older people in the near future?
We’re going to see cautious optimism that the changes we make to deal with the post-pandemic experience will be the right decisions. We’re going to see a learning curve, and we might not experience it until 2023 or 2024, when some of these new communities are more operational.
Experiential changes and evolving design techniques now will drive the residents’ experience. Hopefully everyone is careful not to adopt an overly medical model. We should always make sure that there is a space for socialization and enjoyment that allows for different evolutionary activities, and not a feeling where everything must be able to be separated.
In short, how would you describe the future of senior citizens’ lives?
What quality should all future leaders possess?
You have to show determination and flexibility. If you can find a way to balance the two, you are built to be a good leader.
If you could give your teen some advice on day one, what would it be and why?
Stick to the plan that you have built. I decided I wanted to be an architect when I was in sixth grade. I went to an architectural school in Wisconsin. I got my first job and then started to develop relationships with my then mentors to understand what architecture means as a profession and as a design process. I would say to the younger version of myself, “You do it right. “