The aged care and seniors living sectors are experiencing significant change, particularly in terms of resident expectations and design configuration.
Historically, residential aged care was viewed as hostels (low care) and nursing homes (high care), however this view has undergone a serious transformation as facilities have become more flexible and innovative to meet care and social needs.
These changes have allowed operators to develop their product offering with an expanded range of accommodation, driven by an ageing population that is demanding more from providers.
Senior housing providers are also seeking out creative new locations such as mixed-use developments, and it makes sense that some might find themselves sharing space, or co-locating, with a medical office building or health care-anchored retail centres.
We are seeing a broader interest in mainstream large format retail being adjacent, vertically co-located and/or influencing the built form outcome in seniors living.
This type of diversification can challenge and steer the urban design discussion away from effective community quarantine into one of vibrant inclusion.
From a land use perspective, the move away from being gated heralds a mainstream shift to be amongst rather than near. From a lifestyle perspective, this indicates a market prepared to be urban rather than fringe.
Getting older, and more numerous
Globally we are moving towards an aged demographic, which will be more pronounced in many of the developed countries. The baby boomer generation is today shaping the way accommodation is provided to older Australians.
With baby boomers currently aged between 56 and 74 years of age, the demand for seniors’ accommodation is on the rise, further accentuated by medical advancements that have increased their average life expectancy.
Looking ahead, population growth among the 65-plus age cohort is projected to be significant. By 2036, it is expected that there will be almost 6.6 million people aged 65 and over, at which point they will represent almost 21 per cent of the Australian population.
Notably, this growth will underpin a large pick-up in retirement and aged care demand and highlights the opportunity to both existing operators and new market entrants.
Ageing in place and co-location
The new consumers in aged care are mostly unlike any previous generations. Today’s consumers are highly-educated, wealthier, tech savvy and accustomed to a higher standard of living compared with generations past.
Subsequently, care providers have had to adapt and deliver in line with changing expectations and preferences of this new wave of older Australians. The older generation today is less inclined to leave the family home and established social, community and family networks.
This has transferred into the residential seniors living sector – retirement and care – with consumers wanting to remain within proximity to their established family and social networks.
With this in mind, operators have been pushing for quality suburban locations and are increasingly beginning to co-locate, integrating retirement and aged care on one site, providing a continuum of care.
This allows residents to age in place, with security in the knowledge they don’t have to move as their living and care requirements change as they age.
Co-located facilities are generally campus-style in city fringe and suburban locations close to retail, transport and leisure services, multi-building and multi-level, allowing residents to retain the lifestyle they enjoyed in their own home.
A real-life example of this is TLC Aged Care’s Clifton Views facility in Melbourne which provides integrated healthcare service with aged care at its core.
The Richardson in Perth, operated by Oryx communities, is another exemplar. Previously a boutique 5-star hotel, in 2018 The Richardson was reimagined into a beautiful aged care home combining sophisticated comfort and lifestyle with continuous care. It is an example of a high-rise residential aged care home that not only offers nine levels of aged care accommodation options, but also an on-site medical centre and retail offerings.
An earlier example, The Menzies, is a $35 million five-star development set in the heart of Malvern, Victoria. It is one of the first vertically-formatted retirement living projects in the region and is located among exclusive shopping precincts and adjacent to the local civic precinct. It is a superior early example of the trend towards lifestyle choices in the retirement accommodation market.
U City in Adelaide is another example of a co-located facility that brings together retirement living, social, commercial and community services over 20 storeys to establish a thriving community in the heart of the city.
Things are looking up
With quality, large suburban sites becoming progressively more unaffordable and harder to find, operators are increasingly looking for new models.
Smaller sites, increased desires to remain close to family, social networks and existing amenities, and the increased acceptance of high-rise living has encouraged more aged care facilities to consider vertical configuration, including integration and co-location.
As with campus-style facilities, Brisbane is now experiencing an increased number of high-density vertical facilities. Aveo Newstead is Brisbane’s first vertical seniors’ village.
The 19-storey tower is constructed over the existing Gasworks retail precinct, giving residents and their visitors access to high-quality retail and commercial spaces. These include a supermarket, boutique markets, coffee shops, restaurants, hair and beauty, pharmacy and doctors.
It’s truly a one-stop shop that capitalises on a key urban location and provides multiple living options ranging from independent living apartments, assisted living and residential aged care.
Corridors now perform like streets, courtyards like parks and what used to be thought of as a facility is now more akin to village life. This way of thinking is equally applicable to refurbishment as it is to any new built form.
While going vertical isn’t without its inherent risks, necessity breeds innovation and more and more we are seeing new ways of delivering vertical care with co-location.
Although there are many challenges surrounding the ageing population, scarcity of suitable sites, increasing land values and the risks associated with funding construction of a large vertical development, I definitely see this as a ripening opportunity.
Simon Drysdale is Group Director – Seniors Living & Aged Care at ThomsonAdsett