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Lessons from overseas: an architect’s perspective


Copenhagen and Hamburg are re-imagining third age living, writes James Kelly, who calls for Australian aged care and retirement living communities to feature more intergenerational and mixed used facilities.

I recently had the pleasure of going on a study tour to Europe to explore and get inspiration from other countries, specifically Denmark, Sweden and Germany, on how they design and develop facilities for their third age population – those entering retirement.

James Kelly

During the two-week trip hosted by One Fell Swoop we visited numerous locations, each with a slightly different approach to accommodating its third age community members. A number of key findings were evident throughout the trip that could be applicable to Australia.

One important element showcased through many facilities was the understanding that seniors should maintain a presence within the community as they age. In Australia as an industry we need to collaborate more deeply and explore how we can create a truly intergenerational culture and one that provides a continuity of integration for our senior population as their requirements for care increase.

The stigma surrounding aged care in Australia has prevented us from using visionary thinking to create truly liveable and vibrant environments. Our clients have often indicated that seniors perceive aged care facilities as an end-point – a place they are forced to go rather than a community in which they choose to live.

Coupling aged care and retirement living developments within new communities and inner-city apartment buildings is something our colleagues in Europe have accomplished. Overseas, the stigma around aged care is changing and they are seeking to provide facilities for their ageing population that allow residents to age in their local community. They are successfully creating a range of mixed-use and mixed demographic developments where aged care and higher-care facilities have been seamlessly stitched into the urban fabric.

In Australia, aged care facilities are typically located in the outer suburbs and are stand-alone facilities that do not have a mixture of uses beyond aged care, retirement living and some basic medical facilities. We have the opportunity to adopt the learnings Europe has developed over the past 15 years and start to design and deliver aged care facilities that are part of and contribute to the local community.

There are of course challenges within the industry that have traditionally prevented step change, such as regulation, planning, financing and marketing, but by looking through a new lens and considering what is being done successfully overseas, we can initiate the improvements we need for our older Australians.

Inspiration from Copenhagen

Laggadehus Copenhagen

Going vertical allows for a mixture of accommodation and services to be integrated within the urban fabric of an existing city.

We need to work at creating opportunities that allow senior citizens to remain in areas they have lived their whole lives be that inner city, middle ring or outer suburbs. This can be achieved through the creation of aged care developments that are situated alongside other amenities and accommodation options, with facilities that can be used by residents and the local community alike.

Laggadehus Copenhagen

In Langadehus, Copenhagen, a multi-storey aged care facility is co-located with private residential apartments above and medical and community facilities on the ground floor.

It has a mixture of housing typologies and amenities available. It also boasts opt-in access to home care services, allowing for multi-generational living where apartments and residential living co-exist with aged care facilities, medical facilities, offices, childcare and more.

At ClarkeHopkinsClarke we have begun to explore opportunities for this type of mixed-use typology for Benetas’ proposed integrated community project in Doncaster, Victoria. Still in the early stages, this development will feature an aged care facility alongside a six-level, independent living apartment building to the south.

Whilst being specifically targeted as a senior’s community it is designed to sit within an urban fabric of the surrounding Doncaster Hill precinct and become an outreach centre for seniors within the whole community.

Learning from Hamburg

Incorporating more aged care facilities within communities can create mixed-use locations.

We need to consider how we can incorporate aged care needs into middle and inner-city locations, where we would see a mixture of accommodation and services to create a true vibrant community. Creating vertical and mixed-use communities will allow us to generate highest and best use outcomes for premium sites.

A successful community would include facilities that support wider community needs. For example, amenities for disability support, community and government programs. In Hartwig Hesse in Hamburg, a multi-storey and multi-building mixed-use development has been created that incorporates aged care facilities and health care services into the broader community.

Aged care living and higher care facilities are located throughout the site with additional residential living for all ages available above this, allowing for a fully integrated, multi-generational facility in an inner-city area. Whilst still in construction, it is envisaged to be a thriving community where residents of all ages enjoy a strong sense of community and interaction on a day-to-day basis.

In Adelaide, U City by Uniting Communities is one of the first developments to explore this type of multi-generational living in Australia. It is a 20-storey vertical village aged care development located in the inner city and is mixed-use with commercial and retail spaces, youth services, disability services, gym, hairdresser and more, all located with aged care facilities.

Our aged care team is currently working on the innovative project Lincoln on the Bellarine. In collaboration with our client YMCA we are creating a retirement community that will support an intergenerational community by harnessing the power of youth for employment opportunities and delivering publically accessible shared amenities such as a café, performance spaces, and an aquatic centre.

Improving aged care in Australia

The future of aged care facilities requires the best learnings from leading communities across the globe. With mixed-use developments and the movement of aged care facilities into inner-city locations we need to seek out and explore options to truly interact with people of varying ages, cultures, beliefs and interests to create vibrant active communities.

We need to challenge ourselves to new methods of providing care and developing building typologies which stitch into the local area and are appealing choices for residents, visitors, staff and the broader community alike.

James Kelly is an associate at architectural practice Clarke Hopkins Clarke.

Do you have a study tour experience to share? Get in touch at editorial@australianageingagenda.com.au



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