Sarah Gregory, AIA, LEED AP, WELL AP, an award-winning architect in designing communities where seniors live, work and play, has joined CJMW Architecture as Director of Senior Living.
In her role at CJMW, Sarah will build upon the firm’s 40+ years of designing environments for the aging. She will lead the senior living studio, integrating support from firm principals Alan Moore and Peter Epermanis while expanding CJMW’s practice and mentoring a new generation of designers and leaders.
“Sarah is the ideal leader to continue CJMW’s long tradition of innovation in senior living design,” said Alan Moore, AIA and principal. “Her passion for planning and designing smart, beautiful places for seniors is evident in projects ranging from new construction to expanding and re-imagining existing communities.”
Sarah brings her innate focus on client service and partnership to the firm. “There’s a real synergy of shared beliefs and practices – my philosophy of approaching each client with openness, curiosity, and a willingness to listen without ego and preconceived notions aligns with CJMW’s,” she says.
Sarah has spent the last half of her 24-year career planning, designing and managing the large-scale construction of new senior living communities as well as helping existing ones reposition themselves in a competitive marketplace. Her previous experience with the firms of LS3P, THW, and Cooper Carry included participating in the design and documentation of more than $370 million in senior living construction. Her honors include the 2016 Best New CCRC Award from Senior Housing News for Carolina Bay at Autumn Hall in Wilmington, North Carolina; and the 2018 National Association of Home Builders’ GOLD Best of 55+ Housing Award for Lakewood in Richmond, Virginia.
Sarah’s love of design began while growing up in a family of craftsmen. Her grandfather was a cabinet maker and carpenter, and her father worked in construction. Sarah began drawing house plans, using a simplified version of CAD, in a middle school class. Around the same time, her parents hired an architect for a project for their own home, further piquing her interest. “Design has always been a part of me,” she said.
After earning her B.S. in architecture from the University of Arkansas, she worked on a range of projects, including K-12 design and multi-family housing for resorts. When she had the opportunity to work on a senior living project about 12 years ago, she said, “It sparked a passion in me. Here was a way for me to bring together my love of residential design with my desire to create something that makes a true impact in someone’s life.”
“I enjoy the process of bringing together all the elements of a community into a micro-environment,” Sarah said. “Today’s seniors are healthier and more active than ever. In addition to the expected amenities for comfortable living and health care, they desire well designed modern communities with a range of dining options and areas for wellness, sports and recreation, gathering and assembly, and more.”
Sarah is also a national thought leader in senior living design. As a member of the AIA National Senior Living Knowledge Leadership Board (Design for Aging), Sarah and colleagues across the U.S. have provided information, advice and best practices to senior living communities.
COVID continues to present challenges for senior living, she said. “Each community is trying to pivot. Many are re-evaluating outdoor spaces, looking at ways to add amenities such as screened-in porches and outdoor heaters to extend the shoulder seasons as long as possible. I think we will be seeing many more flexible indoor spaces as well, such as areas suitable for gathering spaces that can be quickly transitioned into extended dining areas if needed.”
One thing is for certain: The need for more senior housing is growing exponentially. Estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau indicate the number of people aged 75 and older in the U.S. will continue to increase through 2050 and beyond. As demographics continue to shift, new and different models of living and care will be needed. “I’m very excited to lead CJMW’s senior living practice into the future, working with our clients to develop innovative responses to new challenges.”