A new retirement living and aged care facility has opened in Western Australia’s Margaret River region, complete with innovative memory boxes to help residents with dementia.

Capecare has opened its $37.5 million project in the coastal town of Dunsborough, after receiving $9.6 million in State and Federal grants..

The facility includes an 80-bed residential care facility and 21 two-bedroom independent living apartments, along with a new headquarters for the Dunsborough branch of the Country Women’s Association (CWA).

Aerial view of Capecare Dunsborough

Capecare outgoing chair Nadine Carter said the facility would include design features to help residents with dementia, including memory boxes, careful use of colour, tailored furnishings and fittings and signage with rest stops.

“Nursing and care staff have all been involved in the design process. The use of natural light throughout the complex is a standout feature,” Ms Carter said.

The memory boxes were covered in this ABC story, which said they provided emotional support for residents and also helped them to remember where they lived in the complex and stay independent for longer.

Allanah Lucas' memory box

One resident, Allanah Lucas, told the ABC her memory box - a wooden box with a see-through door - helped her remember her father and his love of orchids, and their journey from Malaysia when she was young.

"By the time I have got to the dining room I am feeling pretty on top of the world," Ms Lucas was reported as saying.

Every time I go through my doorway … I always look at them all and remember so many wonderful times and things that have happened in my life … and all the beautiful people in my life as well.

"You have a lot of time to think when you're in a home and you do travel back in your mind a lot … sometimes you need to be reminded about the really happy good times.”

The CWA donated a portion of land to allow the development to happen.

In addition, the Australian Government contributed $7.1 million through its Building Better Regions Fund and the WA Government contributed $2.5 million through its Regional Aged Accommodation Program.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said: “This project will reduce pressure on the regional hospital system as the population ages, as well as provide ongoing opportunities for local businesses to provide goods and services to the complex.” 

Western Australian Minister for Regional Development Alannah MacTiernan said the project would provide significant social benefits for Dunsborough residents. 

“The new facilities create opportunities for aged members of the community to maintain connections through activities such as an inter-generational playgroup, excursions, fitness programs and other social activities,” Ms MacTiernan said. 

“The complex will also notably provide 40 per cent of residential beds to disadvantaged people without the financial resources normally required to reside in these facilities.” 

State Member for Vasse Libby Mettam said: “Having access to such facilities locally means Dunsborough residents will no longer have to move away from their community, family, social and support networks when they need residential care.” 

Art is also a prominent feature of Capecare Dunsborough.

The project features huge exterior murals by renowned Perth mural artist Kyle Hughes-Odgers, stunning stained-glass windows by Perth Art Glass featuring local flora and fauna, and a local art acquisition project with Arts Margaret River which has seen 24 works by local artists purchased and displayed around the facility.

Art in the dining room at Capecare Dunsborough

The facility will employ approximately 60 people full time once all four residential wings are fully operational, and employed approximately 530 people during construction.

Capecare has been established for 60 years and is a not-for-profit and independent community organisation.