It’s an exciting time to be designing seniors living and aged care because we get to break the mould, writes Frank Ehrenberg.
The grey nomads are rejoicing. Retirement living designers and developers have finally caught on to what they have known for 20 years – life in your senior years is all about lifestyle.
The increasing numbers of older people who are trekking around the country and the world demonstrate that this generation of seniors are explorers and seekers of adventure and experience.
They don’t want normal, or ordinary.
Baby boomers have lived a life of relative luxury compared with generations before them and they won’t be willing to sacrifice this because they’re moving into a retirement village or aged care facility.
This has profound implications for the kinds of accommodation and lifestyle focus they want delivered to them.
At the recently completed AVEO Clayfield, contemporary apartments stand alongside restored and adapted buildings offering lifestyle facilities including integrated cafes and dining precincts, games rooms and activity centres, manicured gardens and exercise spaces.
Among the sensitivities in this project was Highlands House, which was of cultural heritage significance.
We had to adapt Highlands House for future use as a community facility for the residents of the village and to preserve those remaining features that were considered historically important.
We were able to do that and integrate a formal dining room, a library, and a suite of flexible game rooms.
Currently under construction is a new community centre to house a bistro, a café, and multipurpose room.
The community centre will become the heart of the village and it’s these types of amenities that baby boomers are after.
The current generation of seniors have more money and more choice than ever before but their options for retirement housing haven’t evolved with them, until now.
For RetireAustralia, we have designed low-rise apartment villages sitting alongside existing community facilities such as golf clubs and bowls clubs.
The retirement generation may be getting ready to enter age appropriate accommodation but that doesn’t mean they are willing to give up beloved hobbies or interests.
We are seeing it in the community response. People are coming to information sessions wanting to sign to buy apartments off the plan.
This is an exciting time to be designing seniors living and aged care developments because we are able to break the mould and create something people are attracted to.
We want to invoke a sense of desire to live in these places. There’s no reason why these developments should be any less appealing than a regular high quality, well designed residential development.
As architects it’s our role to constantly innovate and challenge the status quo and it’s up to us to create new paradigms for seniors living and aged care accommodation.
It’s up to us to change peoples’ perceptions about retirement and aged care and shift the mindset from seeing a retirement village as the last resort into something that becomes a lifestyle choice.
We need to see ourselves living there, and to ensure others feel the same, these designs have to be at forefront of their minds and capable of catching their attention.
Frank Ehrenberg is the Brisbane principal of Marchese Partners, which has designed for leading providers including RetireAustralia and AVEO.
This is an extract from a special report on aged care building and design that appears in the latest issue of Australian Ageing Agenda magazine (November-December).