Small-scale aged care homes and integrated ageless communities are among predicted themes that came out of a workshop on the future design of aged care.

Longevity by Design, which is now in its second year, is a joint initiative of the University of Queensland’s Healthy Ageing Initiative and DMA Engineers.

The end of year workshop brought designers, innovators, planners and aged care providers, including Fresh Hope Care, Southern Cross Care Queensland and St Vincent’s Care Services, together to discuss homelike aged care design that better meets people’s needs in a future pandemic.

Longevity by Design facilitator Dr Rosemary Kennedy said the meeting aimed to rethink aged care design.

“With the catalyst of the both the royal commission into aged care and the COVID crisis and seeing that people living in residential aged care were pretty much at the forefront and bearing the brunt on both of those things, it seemed really important to reconsider what aged care means,” Dr Kennedy told Australian Ageing Agenda.

Dr Rosemary Kennedy

“One of the things was that a real home has a front door and is street facing. And a real home is fairly small scale – so a move away from large institutional management centric models to smaller home models,” said Dr Kennedy, director of Subtropical Cities Consultancy.

“The government is talking about small home models as one of the recommendations from the royal commission, but they talk about 15 people living in a home. I think it would be fairly difficult to have a relationship with 15 people, so most people talked about small homes,” she said.

“They also talked about why would you have to move anyway? So bringing the services to you, rather than moving out of your home,” Dr Kennedy said.

Another key theme was integrating aged care with the wider community.

“People really embraced the idea of not just small households but embraced the idea of communities that are clusters of micro communities that are linked into the wider community,” she said.

Dr Kennedy said ageless communities, which would see people all ages living in the community, was another theme.

The workshop also heard it was important to re-think language to ensure it was more empowering, she said.

“The change of language [should be] aimed at enabling rather than limiting. It should acknowledge people’s wide range of capabilities, rather than focusing on the negative or their inabilities,” she said.

Dr Kennedy said she was optimistic these themes would be considered when designing aged care homes in the future.

“There’s certainly change afoot,” she said.

“I think society in general has had a wakeup call with the pandemic that things can actually be different and there might be other ways of caring for or helping people to live well for as long as they live,” Dr Kennedy said.

Longevity by Design 2021 took place on 1 November 2021.

Main image: Longevity by Design 2021 brought designers, innovators, planners and aged care providers together to re-imagine aged care design

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