21 May 2019

Interior designers, architects and operators are challenging traditional perceptions about aged care, by introducing new bright colours, luxury features and clever layout solutions to improve resident care.

The aged care industry has historically provided clinical-style rooms and corridors which feel more like hospitals than homes for residents.

However, a range of experts have told Downsizing.com.au about the quiet revolution underway in the aged care industry, which has meant residents can enjoy a luxury-style living environment which encourages mental stimulation and social interaction.

Good architectural design is vital

Damian Barker, the design director of architectural firm Jackson Teece, said the move towards well-considered and quality aged care design had been underway for at least ten years.

He said his firm was now starting to do some “very luxurious” aged care projects, while acknowledging there was also an ongoing need for good quality accommodation “for people who haven’t got the wealth advantage of many in the community”.

Jackson Teece Design Director Damian Barker

“The key objective is to make a large facility as comfortable and homely as possible, for residents who have come from an independent house,” he said. “Interior designers work hard to create living environments, which are consistent with what you would find in a lovely house.”

“We are talking about rooms with natural light, good views, opening windows and spaces for people to sit and for the facility to not feel like a hospital.

“In addition, you might try to disguise services in the facility...things like nurse stations and medicine rooms. You are trying to create an environment in which residents are living in a communal household.”

Mr Barker said the orientation of the proposed facility, to allow residents who may be bed-ridden to have views, along with the placement of outdoor areas around the facility, was also important to improve the quality of care.

In addition, Mr Barker there was an increasing understanding that there is a need to design facilities to respond to patients who had dementia or vision issues, including allowing these residents to more easily distinguish between colours and surfaces.

The management of people with dementia in aged care, including the need to limit the use of physical and chemical constraints, has been a major issue examined by the Aged Care Royal Commission. Good facility design is seen is a critical way to support this outcome.

Lobby of the Regis Elermore Vale aged care facility in the NSW Hunter region - designed by Jackson Teece

Bright colours are important

In June 2019, Sydney-based interior designer Julie Ockerby (pictured above) will release a new range of fabrics, designed for aged care facilities. She describes the fabrics as having “bright but not overbearing colours, simple patterns, soft but hard-wearing textures and the obligatory waterproof backing.”

The new fabrics are part of Ms Ockerby’s mission to improve the standard of interior design at aged care facilities.

She says she was driven to the sector after she found it difficult to find a well-designed nursing home for her father. “My father was ill and needed a nursing home, but I couldn’t find one to the standards I felt he deserved,” she said. “Nobody was considering the environment as adding to his quality of life - somewhere designed with heart and soul”.

Ms Ockerby’s firm Meli Studio has also designed a range of aged care projects, which are described as looking more like “five-star, boutique hotels, with luxe lobbies, sumptuous suites, beauty salons, cafés, cinemas and private dining rooms.” The latest of these projects is Uniting Care Gerringong on the coast just South of Sydney.

Cafe at Uniting Care Gerringong
Room at Uniting Care Gerringong

“Why can’t aged care bedrooms be designed more like hotel suites?,” Ms Ockerby says.

“Why can’t dining areas be more interactive and truly inspire all five senses, as we see in modern restaurants? Our recent aged care home projects feature cafés, hotel-style reception or lobby spaces, hair salons and cinemas.

“Moving forward, I’d like to see the design trends embracing the whole family to encourage intergenerational involvement.

“Areas such as private dining rooms needs to be more than a big table with 12 chairs, they have to involve the outdoor spaces and landscape features, such as playgrounds.”

New aged care project in Queensland

More recently, the Palm Lake Group has announced the launch of a brand new $35 million class-leading residential aged caring community at Beachmere, in the State’s Moreton Bay region.

Each of the project’s 102 light and bright private ensuited rooms have outdoor access, while the project also includes facilities such as a café, hair salon, movie theatre and multiple lounge and dining options, including room service.

The project also features elegant Hamptons styling like its Palm Lake Group stablemate, Palm Lake Resort Beachmere Bay, located just across the road.

Aged care information online

Downsizing.com.au lists a wide range of aged care and home care services - find out more here.

By Mark Skelsey, News Editor of Downsizing.com.au. Please contact Mark at news@downsizing.com.au