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Architectural Innovation in Aged Care

Aged care and architectural innovation are not usually identified as partners. Over many years aged care developments have typically become homogenous institutions that rely more on affordable repetition then innovation. This is generally reflected in both the architectural solutions and the service model. Indeed they are institutionalised and basic functions are dumbed down for an assumed ease of use. Hence the grey and beige aesthetic of the nursing home we are all familiar with.

An increasingly sophisticated and independent elderly cohort are demanding more in the provision of aged care services. A number of leading providers have reinvented their models and have recognised that care services and accommodation can be delivered in quite a different way, one that is a closer reflection of modern expectations. The Productivity Commission’s recent review and recommendations into aged care will encourage further innovations by private operators to attract paying customers. While care services are being created on new service and financial models, so too is the way accommodation and service buildings are being designed.

Care, consideration & innovative design solutions result in a comfortable environment

Lightwave takes the same approach to design thinking in aged care as it would for any project. Working as an integral member of the service provider team, the architecture can be both a driver and support for the assisted living model, continuously improving the physical framework in each development to further enhance the residenct experience.

Although form and aesthetic are important architectural features to reflect this changing model, they must also be sympathetic to an understood feeling of home. The opportunities to push the architectural boundary of what is an acceptable form are growing, but the real innovation lies more within the subtleties of the spatial hierarchy. Additionally, the design and implementation of seniors living building codes need careful attention. Unconsidered literal interpretations of these codes will replicate what we come to expect in a nursing home or hospital, which, in our opinion, are inappropriate and inhospitable environments to house our seniors. Care, consideration and innovative design solutions can produce environments that are not too dissimilar to a five star resort, a luxury condiminium or an international hotel. They really don’t need to be depressing hospitals with a token bunch of flowers and a watercolour painting.

While not high on the shopping list of priorities when looking for aged accommodation, the social life becomes one of the most valuable and enjoyable experiences of living in an aged community. An understanding of this social experience is critical to the master planning of the village and the relationship of the apartments to the leisure centre and communal facilities scattered around the site. With a respectful approach to detailing for increasingly frail residents, the common spaces are created to allow for a variety of social experiences so that the journey from the apartments to the leisure centre could be littered with unexpected interactions.

A leisure centre encourages social activity

Typically a front porch is provided that addresses the covered walkways and allows residents to interact with passers by from the comfort of their own home. Common outdoor lounges overlook courtyard gardens which lead towards the central leisure centre and create a hierarchy of space; from the privacy of the apartments to the communal facilities and even public coffee shops and restaurants.

With an aging population that wants to maintain a connection with public life, we can see future aged communities will be focusing more on urban environments and enhancing public integration. There is no doubt at some point these villages would likely be located within an entertainment complex, shopping facility, beach resort or casino.

There have been many arguments over the years suggesting that increased integration between different social, socioeconomic and age groups provide a greater respect and understanding between communities, making safer environments and an equitable distribution of services. Although this leads to a much wider discussion about town planning and political interest, the increasing popularity of mixed use developments does signify a shift in acceptable developments. It may be a while before the aged care model integrates completely with other user groups but subtle spatial arrangements in the architecture and planning of the villages now will allow future users the opportunity to continue living the rich and diverse lifestyle they have come to expect.


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