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How to create better aged care communities

ClarkeHopkinsClarke is advocating for the development of hybrid facilities that integrate aged care accommodation with retirement living units.

Ageing is increasingly being viewed positively in our society. Life expectancy is trending in a steady upward direction, and the gap between male and female life expectancy is narrowing.

Those entering retirement often have many healthy and active years to live before reaching an age of dependency in which they require a high level of care. The late British historian Peter Laslett, who was regarded as an advocate for positive ageing, described this period as “the third age: an era for personal achievement and fulfilment after retirement”.

The Productivity Commission’s statistics around access to aged care further reinforce the concept of the third age. The average age at which Australians access high care services is steadily increasing and currently sits at around 83 years of age. Overall, fewer older people are moving into aged care (as a percentage of population) and the average length of stay in aged care facilities is 2–3 years. Aged care is therefore evolving towards becoming a limited, end-of-life service.

These statistics reflect the fact that the mere concept of being considered “aged” has for many taken on an objectionable meaning and implication. The traditional approach to the location and design of retirement living facilities is out of step with these trends, with the current typology of ‘gated’ retirement living facilities located on the periphery of residential communities only reinforcing the negative perceptions of ageing. It is also out of step with the self-perceptions, needs and expectations of those requiring aged care services, who are often active members of their communities and would rather avoid being labelled ‘aged’.

At ClarkeHopkinsClarke we are working with our clients to respond to the changing demands of the market and we are advocating for the development of hybrid facilities that integrate aged care accommodation with retirement living units. Combining residential aged care with retirement living enables greater integration of built form with surrounding residential buildings and contributes to housing diversity, enabling people to stay within their community and within a short distance of their partner and/or social network should they require advanced care over time.

We are also working with our clients to achieve greater integration of these facilities within neighbourhood settings. Positioning retirement communities at the heart of new master- planned developments has the potential to better address the needs of older Australians while also introducing a greater level of amenity to new communities.

This approach is demonstrated by ClarkeHopkinsClarke’s recent project for Baptcare, an integrated living community in Lalor, an outer metropolitan suburb of Melbourne. The project comprises

135 retirement living residences adjacent to a 120-bed aged- care facility, and forms part of Mosaic Village, a contemporary residential development which includes apartments and townhouses aimed at families and young professionals. The village is nestled among hundreds of single residential households in an established suburban setting.

Baptcare Lalor’s integrated living community is not gated, and the built form blends seamlessly with the surrounding apartments and townhouses. The precinct is open at its boundaries, enabling pedestrians to travel through the site, introducing a further sense of integration and activation with its surrounds. It’s also in close proximity to the town centre and a state-of-the-art recreation facility providing residents easy access to these amenities.

Baptcare’s Lalor facility further contributes a community hub and wellbeing centre featuring community meeting and activity rooms, a hairdresser, cafe, day therapy suites and an office from which local home care services can be administered. This delivers a win-win situation where Baptcare’s residents can be closely connected to the vibrancy and convenience of the existing Mosaic Village amenities, and the village’s residents benefit from the services and amenities provided by the community hub and wellbeing centre.

Baptcare’s facility also contributes to housing diversity, allowing for local families to have their elderly family members close by and, over time, enabling all residents of Mosaic Village to age in place.

Another example of how ClarkeHopkinsClarke is integrating aged care with the community is in Hastings on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria, where we have designed a new double- storey, 120-bed aged-care facility for the Bays Hospital Group. The project is a redevelopment of the former Hastings Bush Nursing Hospital, a community-run facility that has provided healthcare services for nearly a century. The Bays Hospital

Group intends to continue this legacy of community healthcare with the provision of a day-patient facility for dialysis, as well as medical consulting suites within the new aged care facility.

The site is adjacent to an existing aged-care residence and primary school and only a short walk to the town’s main shopping centre, library, banks, cafes and foreshore parklands. The master plan seeks to maximise engagement with the surrounding community while the architecture contributes to uplifting the local urban character through quality design.

The facility is arranged around a lively main street that provides access for the local community to the health services within and connects residents with the wider community both directly and passively.

This clustering of community amenities further activates the site in various ways. For instance, a parent might drop their child off at the primary school located opposite and then visit their GP in the consulting suites. They can then visit their own parents in the aged care home and sit out on the second-floor balcony alongside the grandparents to watch their child playing at morning recess.

These projects are examples of how ClarkeHopkinsClarke is delivering on our mission to create vibrant communities. We believe that aged care facilities introduce much needed housing and demographic diversity into new and existing communities. When designed well, they enable older Australians to age within their local neighbourhood, maintain their social and family connections, and access the services and amenities they need without the stigma.

James Kelly is an architect and associate at ClarkeHopkinsClarke.

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