Lively appeal

Modern facilities are designed to support vibrant, active residents and their families in the heart of the greater community.
By Alicia Brown

As Australia’s baby boomer generation heads into retirement in the coming years, demand for modern aged-care facilities is predicted to grow considerably.

Cath Muhlebach, senior associate at ClarkeHopkinsClarke (CHC), says, “People are living longer and are likely to be residing in retirement communities and residential aged care for longer than previous generations.”

In years past, many aged-care facilities have been associated with elderly people in need of nursing care; however, contemporary facilities are increasingly providing residents with rich life experiences as well as high-quality care.

“In aged-care facilities, the trend is for developing a more commercial, hotel, club-like feel for the front of house, then a smaller, more residential scale for the bedrooms and living areas,” Muhlebach says.

No longer are residential facilities for older members of society being treated as separate from the rest of the community. Integrated developments of aged-care facilities and retirement living communities are now being built in the heart of urban centres. These new communities provide real lifestyle opportunities, and are believed to better cater for Australia’s ageing population.

“Baby boomers see retirement living as the start of a new phase of their life that should provide them with opportunities,” Muhlebach says. “There is an expectation they will be able to live in communities that have a contemporary design, rather than referencing historical building types as many developments have done in the past.”

These modern developments do away with the siloed model of decades past and instead emphasise the connection between developments and their surrounding community.

They also allow varied levels of care and support for residents, so they can access services progressively as required.

“We look to knit the developments into the urban fabric so they make a positive contribution and are integrated into the community,” Muhlebach says.

When designing independent living units, CHC’s approach is to develop dwellings to the standard expected by people purchasing a new apartment or townhouse, or a wealthy investor seeking returns.

“The independent living units should be in keeping with market expectations for residential development – contemporary, light-filled and spacious buildings within walkable precincts,” Muhlebach says.

Not only are these modern retirement developments more visually appealing and functional, they offer facilities and activities to suit a diverse range of resident lifestyles.

“Offerings such as wellness centres and clubhouses within the residential precinct and facilities such as cafes, cinemas, bars, libraries and men’s sheds within the facility contribute to a vibrant, active residential community and enable residents to live life to the full,” Muhlebach says.

The intention is that these new communities will also appeal to residents’ family and friends through the creation of a modern, lively and supportive environment.

Muhlebach hopes more attractive and inclusive facilities will assist in breaking down any stigma associated with retirement living and residential aged-care.

“For many people, visiting an aged-care facility can be confronting and challenging, particularly in older facilities where the only place a resident could receive visitors was in their bedroom,” she says.

“We tend to develop a ‘main street’ precinct within the facility that brings together services such as cafe, bar and chapel, where visitors can go and have a coffee with their loved one just as they would have done previously.”

Increasingly, newly developed aged-care facilities also include play areas for children, encouraging young grandchildren and their families to visit more frequently.

CHC’s The Bays Aged Care Facility – a new two-storey, 120-bed site in Hastings, Victoria, has been exploring these initiatives.

The recently completed Prom Country Facility – a new 60-bed site in Foster – accommodates the residents of two earlier facilities that have been closed.

Prom Country features a ‘main street’, with facilities like a cinema and hairdresser.

The resident accommodation is planned as a series of three wings that are individually accessed from the main street, adding character to the property and helping visitors navigate the area.

The group has also worked on the expansion of the existing Millhaven Lodge, initiated to cater for the growing demand for aged care in Pakenham and the surrounding suburbs of outer Melbourne.

The expansion provided an additional 32 resident rooms over two levels, including the development of a community room large enough for all 100 residents and their visitors to gather for events. It can also be used by local community groups.

This was a key element in the development of the project, due to the considerable fundraising efforts of the local community to support this not-for-profit facility over the years.

As Australia’s cities continue to grow, along with the country’s ageing population, designing contemporary aged-care facilities has never been more important.

Alicia Brown is director at New Doors consultancy.

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