‘Change the narrative’ providers hear at industry event

There needs to be a shift in thinking when designing aged care homes of the future, according to an expert panel speaking on day two of Australian Healthcare Week.

There needs to be a shift in thinking when designing aged care homes of the future, according to an expert panel speaking on day two of Australian Healthcare Week.

“We have to change the narrative,” said Melissa Argent – chief executive officer at Rockpool Aged Care. “I always steer away from just thinking physical care. It’s the mental health component, it’s the independence component – it’s damn well enjoying life … You don’t just come to aged care to die. We need to make people realise that they can come to live.”

Ms Argent was appearing on a five-person panel at AHW 2023 in Sydney discussing strategies for designing aged care facilities of the future.

General manager places at Australian Unity Lorraine Calder agreed with Ms Argent that homes of the future should be providing more than just care. “It’s accommodation for someone to live in. It’s also services. It’s where the café is, it’s where our physiotherapy might be, where our meals are given to us. We need to start changing the perception of what aged care is.”

Chief property officer at Southern Cross Care (WA) Ian Nichols said providers will be expected to align their thinking with the needs of the baby boomers. “It’s about staying active; it’s about being connected. I think they are the expectations of the baby boomers.”

The future of aged care has to be codesigned, he added. “People should be at the centre of everything that we design and create.”

And that needs to extend beyond consumer input, said Mr Nichols. “But also getting family and friends to have input, staff input. So basically all stakeholders, all user groups get to provide some feedback on the facilities that are being provided.”

Greg Zieschang – director of property at Opal HealthCare – said the emergence of Covid-19 changed the design model of residential aged care forever. “On TV, in news reports, you’d see residents standing at windows … like a prisoner.”

The pandemic prompted Opal HealthCare to open up its homes to the outdoors, Mr Zieschang told delegates at the International Convention Centre in Darling Harbour.

“A patio at ground level or a balcony on an upper level makes such a difference to resident wellbeing,” he said. “We now put balconies on every room for outdoor access.”

A pivotal point in history

Discussing sustainability, the panellists agreed it was an important focus for the future. “That’s a really key factor that we tie in right at the start – how can we design appropriate facilities that hit our environmental initiatives,” said Mr Nichols.

National asset manager aged and community care at Calvary Care Mick McHugh agreed the sustainability elements have to be bedded into the design of a facility from the beginning.

“Quite often we have a great design but then we’re left with a legacy of maintaining those systems going forward. So that design thinking around the environment and sustainability is absolutely fantastic,” he said.

A provider’s environmental credentials will be a priority for the next generation of residents said Ms Argent – who oversees Carseldine Village, Rockpool’s 5-Star Green Star aged care facility in Brisbane’s north.

“They will be – not just asking about it – but expecting that we do it better,” she said. “This is something as an industry we have to do much more on now.”

However, Ms Argent told delegates that Rockpool would not be seeking to obtain further 5-Star Green Star credentials as the process had become too costly. “So we have to think differently as an industry about how we make this possible amongst other costs pressures.”

Rather than credentialing a new build, it’s easier, said Ms Argent, for providers to retrofit an existing site to achieve sustainability-focused outcomes. “Such as solar, rainwater, water tanks etc.”

Mr McHugh told delegates the aged care industry was at a “pivotal point in history – and we need to grab that opportunity.”

When looking to the future, providers will need to be creative, he said. “We need to dare to dream. We need to dare to think differently and dare to move ahead.”

Australian Ageing Agenda is the Official Aged Care Partner of AHW 2023

Main image left to right: Lorraine Calder, Melissa Argent, Greg Zieschang, Mick McHugh and Ian Nichols

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Tags: australian unity, calvary care, featured, greg zieschang, ian nichols, lorraine calder, melissa argent, mick mchugh, opal helathcare, rockpool, southern cross care,

4 thoughts on “‘Change the narrative’ providers hear at industry event

  1. How refreshing to read that providers in the sector are thinking about the holistic nature of aged care. However, as more people will be accessing Home Care in the future, please remember that quality clinical care will still be a major part of the services provided in residential care..

  2. It’s about hyperbole. It’s about cliche, it’s about not very much at all.
    What on earth are they talking about?
    Ahhh…aged care…so many experts, so many gabfests. Everyone’s making a buck except the people doing the work.

  3. Sounds good . Why are so many of us oldies really scared of residential aged care ? Why are we still hearing so many stories of neglect and no care

  4. HELEN, We hear negative information because it is NEWS. If you look at todays Sydney Morning Herald you will find it difficult to read a “good News ” story as the majority of articles are about negative events here and overseas, WE need more public attention to be drawn to some of the good things that are happening. Maybe the fear of dread re possibility of entering a facility will start to wane,


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