A new high-rise seniors housing tower will seek to beat the scourge of loneliness by bringing residents and their friends and families together in retail and communal landscaped areas, including elevated ‘skygardens’.

Uniting has lodged plans with Parramatta City Council for a 16-storey tower at Oxford St, Epping. The tower could well become one of the tallest of its type in Sydney.

The project is proposed to include:

  • 96 independent living units and 60 residential aged care rooms

  • A rooftop landscaped terrace garden, including function rooms, an outdoor kitchen and open space areas

  • A series of semi-private “skygardens” between levels 6 to 14, which will be designed to foster communal interaction between residents and extended families.

  • A cafe, hairdresser, gym, indoor swimming pool and chapel.

“The (project’s) landscape design philosophy seeks to integrate the seniors development with the broader community," the application says.

"This assists in delivering positive social impacts as it encourages seniors to dwell in communal areas other than their apartments, minimising the effects on loneliness and isolation which may contribute to lower quality of life and mental health.

“To complement the communal open space at ground level and throughout residential floorplates...the rooftop terrace will allow for increased outdoor amenity, harnessing solar access to provide passive recreation and exercise facilities. 

“The amenities of the rooftop area will not only enable passive recreational use but will also enable flexible club, multipurpose and dining areas to fuel community driven and focused social activity.”

Cafe open to broader community

According to the application, the project’s cafe will be open to the broader community. 

“This (approach) is vital to Uniting's service model, fostering gathering and meeting spaces for the residents of the buildings, their friends and family,” the application says. 

“Without these spaces, where everyone can feel welcome, residents are limited to and isolated with only interactions occurring within their residence.”

Uniting last year lodged an application for the Epping site, but this was not supported by the council because of issues such as its height, density, potential traffic impacts and tree loss. This new application seeks to address these issues.

The Uniting Epping proiect's rooftop terrace

One of the tallest in Sydney

Apart from its innovative approach to beating loneliness, the Epping project could also become one of the tallest seniors housing complexes in Sydney.

According to a scan of building industry database Cordell Connect, the 16-storey tower will be larger than Aveo’s Bella Vista tower (12 storeys), the Patrick Green seniors living development at Kogarah (12 storeys) and Catholic Healthcare’s proposed redevelopment of its Lewisham West site (12 storeys).

However, it will be smaller than Stockland's proposed 29-storey senior housing complex, also in Epping, which is awaiting planning approval.

Trend towards vertical villages

The lodgement of the Epping project comes amid evidence of a nationwide shift towards vertical seniors housing villages in lifestyle urban locations.

According to the 2019 Retirement Living Census, some 48% of new villages currently under development are either vertical or a combination of vertical and broadacre / horizontal. This figure is up 18% from 2018 Census figures.

The construction of vertical villages allows seniors to be located within high-density town centres (such as the Epping town centre) where they can access restaurants, shopping and arts and cultural opportunities - helping link residents with the broader community.

Building denser and taller seniors housing villages also makes it more cost-efficient for developers to construct the amenities increasingly sought by incoming residents, such as gyms, pools, health and beauty salons and cinemas. These facilities also tend to bring residents together, which assists in community cohesion.

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Artist's impression of the proposed Uniting Epping project