Blue Zones are regions of the world where a higher proportion of people live more than 100 years. Genetics probably only account for 20–30 per cent of longevity – therefore, environmental influences play a huge role in determining your lifespan.
There are currently five known ‘blue zones’. Their inhabitants’ longevity is partly attributed to their diets, along with factors, such as exercise and social environment.
Evidence from ‘blue zone’ research to promote longevity and support residents to live beyond 100 years of age is being applied in a new Independent Living village in Leichhardt that is designed to be an urban oasis.
McRae-McMahon Place by Uniting, according to the architect, Glen Ollerton, from Morrison Design Partnership, adopts the ‘blue zone’ strategy of connectedness through the carefully considered design of the communal areas including the arrival experience and outdoor spaces.
“We know from good design practices, reinforced by evidence-based research of ‘blue zones’, that vibrant, intimate and connected communities live longer,” Mr Ollerton said.
“The design positions the communal areas to promote connectedness with a central area and extended outdoor areas to make them more inviting and encourage connection and a community spirit.
“The design balances the concept of communal activities with opportunities for more intimate gatherings with friends and family through the spatial planning of the development which includes the landscape design.”
In the 1980s there were around 500 centenarians in Australia. Now there’s around 6000, and that’s estimated to grow to 50,000 by 2050.
McRae-McMahon Place by Uniting is a stunning 65-apartment complex across two buildings designed to help maintain the independence of residents without worrying about the continued upkeep of a family home.
The village has extensively landscaped ground-floor gardens and water feature creating an inner-city sanctuary as well as indoor pool and communal facilities including a kitchen, private dining area, general dining area and two multi-functional areas.
Uniting Director of Property and Housing Simon Furness said the vision was to create an urban oasis which had connection to green space, fresh air and sunlight as well as incorporating design to enhance social connection
“The Seniors Gym at Lilyfield is one or our complementary services that seeks to ensure our residents stay healthier for longer and aligns to the research of blue zones,” he said.
“Your zone of physical activity can diminish as you get older and less mobile, but your psychological wellbeing depends on you keeping it as broad as possible, even if it's purely on a visual level. Along with nature’s therapeutic effects and the joy of connection, staying healthy through proactive exercising is seen as hugely important.
“McRae-McMahon Place by Uniting and Hawkins Place by Uniting will further strengthen connection to community while creating outstanding seniors living for residents to age in place. The site is packed with amenities to meet the changing health needs of residents in a community they know and love.”
McRae-McMahon Place and Hawkins Place by Uniting are part of a continuum of care that creates ease of access between Uniting’s services including the specialist seniors’ gym, residential aged care and home and community care in Leichhardt and Lilyfield.
Uniting Seniors’ Gyms Service Manager, Elly Williams, said Uniting had prioritised “reablement” by creating fitness programs and exercise spaces for residents.
“Reablement challenges the idea that physical and mental decline in old age are inevitable and irreversible, but many exercises can help older people maintain or even regain balance, coordination, strength and cognitive ability,” Ms Williams said.
Mr Ollerton said the design for Marion St supports longevity though the concept of Design Well, Live Well, or in general terms, promoting ‘Wellness’.
“Wellness in design is a concept that aims to ensure that every space in the development seeks to promote physical, mental and emotional wellness,” he said.
“The design has carefully considered each space, from each individual apartment to the community and outdoor spaces, the arrival experience through to how friends and family come and spend time with their loved ones.
“Every experience is a positive experience, and combined with the features of the development, all promote wellness and longevity.
“When a visitor enters the site, they are treated to an inviting and rich landscape which is suggestive of inclusiveness and leads the visitor to options for entering the communal areas, visiting a resident in their home, or continuing to the extended communal areas.
“The flowing water brings activity into the space and what we’re trying to do is to create a space where everybody will visit because it is such a beautiful, vibrant place.
“McRae-McMahon is also perfectly positioned within walking distance to the main street of Leichhardt, and on an existing bus route, making it easier for residents and visitors to access the development and the wider community.
“It also includes a resort-style pool which will provide opportunities for swimming, exercise classes and hydrotherapy sessions. The community room is designed to offer a range of uses including for activity groups and community functions.
“The design has embraced the concept of a community within a community. This includes providing a heart for the community where the residents can live, play and socialise.”
Ninety-nine-year-old, June Boyle, who is the oldest person to move into Hawkins Place by Uniting, said she loves the atmosphere and community on Norton St.
“I have been very independent my whole life and it’s quite important to me. I think my new home is like living in five-star hotel and that the area is just terrific with great restaurants and a lovely atmosphere,” she said.
June is looking forward to celebrating her 100th birthday in her home at Norton St.