Written by Damian Barker, Jackson Teece Design Principal.
As the need for quality accommodation and care facilities for our elderly is continuing to increase in response to the demands of a discerning and well healed ageing population, so too will the need for planning incentives to facilitate good design of new development in this sector.
It is generally recognised that people are happiest when they can stay in their communities, and ideally in their own homes, although this is not always possible. Whereas ‘retirement villages’ and ‘nursing homes’ were often separate entities there is a growing trend to have a more blended mix of housing types and care facilities.
‘Independent living units' (ILU’s), which are loosely defined as apartments designed to cater for better accessibility, are better described in many progressive care groups as ‘supported living’ where services and a less intensive level of care can be provided to people within their own homes. These same residents can still utilise the general services and facilities of the community.
Care facilities are more commonly catering to much older and more frail residents than ever before, requiring a much higher level of care and often dementia or palliative care. However, many care facilities provide an amazing range of services from cooking classes, club activities and even aromatherapy in one facility that I am aware.
The concept of ‘ageing in place’ is used loosely in the aged care community. It can mean avoiding moving residents through different forms of accommodation or reducing this as much as possible, or creating an environment within a broader community where residents are supported for as long as possible before they consider residential care accommodation.
The demand and metrics around more ILUs and less beds in facilities is assisting care providers in achieving a more viable financial model. The cost of providing residential care is increasing with demand, and the marketability of apartments is far greater and more palatable to potential occupiers.
This transition to an ILU also provides easier development integration into existing urban and suburban precincts where the apartment housing type proves to be easier to accept within the surrounding community.
Club, health and wellness facilities that encourage interaction between residents, their families and the broader community are also successful, but are land hungry and often difficult to support commercially. This is where scale is important and consolidation of large existing sites has considerable advantages.
Considering the huge demand and complexity of this product, there is increasing pressure to design vertical village type accommodation and in some cases a hybrid model where apartments and care facilities are blended within the same buildings on constrained land holdings.
We think about aged care as a 'sleepy village on the outskirts of the city', and this is changing to allow people to live closer to their families and the services they have used in their own communities throughout their lives.
Our cities' planning frameworks will need to respond to this social need and provide flexibility and incentives, albeit sensitively within existing neighbourhoods.
In Brisbane a positive new policy launched by Mayor Graham Quirk this year encourages a range of aged care housing within existing areas for a greater diversity of housing options across the city. The challenge will be in the implementation as the potential increase in density on these sites inevitably will meet with local resident resistance.
Local and International (China) investment in this sector will be looking for greater surety to engage in these projects where the not for profit sector dominates at present.
Exemplar projects like Anglicare’s urban renewal project in Castle Hill, NSW won the UDIA award for excellence in Aged Care for 2016. This project provides a revitalised new urban centre with a multitude of services integrated with medium density ILU’s.
Anglicare, for example, had the foresight and capacity to undertake its urban renewal project in Castle Hill, NSW without great impediment because of the size of the landholding. Smaller and more constrained sites will require greater support and consideration in the partnership between operator and approval agency to be as successful.
Anglicare's project actually won the UDIA award for excellence in Aged Care for 2016, by providing a revitalised new urban centre with a multitude of services integrated with medium density ILU’s.
is starting to look to Australian expertise as it tackles the enormity of its own aged care issues resulting from the confluence of a one child policy and the rapid increase in wealth of the middle class many of whom are reaching old age. Australian providers and designers can make a significant contribution in this emerging sector on a considerably larger scale.
Design quality of all types of housing and provision of care for the elderly has improved considerably even over the last decade and will continue. More dense, diverse and sustainable design solutions will be required within existing urban communities if we are to meet our future demand to provide a quality living environment in locations throughout our cities. This will require cooperation at all levels of our communities.
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