A new aged friendly care environment

One of the key goals of creating age friendly environments is to make them as normal as possible. Moving into and living in residential aged care can be institutional and alienating and a far cry from ones previous living arrangement. The SCC Parkes RACF was conceived around the idea of providing a rambling, country farm house, much like the situation many of the residents would be used to.

The ‘houses’ are limited in size and are accessed off internal ‘streets’ by a ‘front door’, the harsh western plains climate restricting external connections. These streets are meant to be places in themselves and not just thoroughfares. They have seats that look over the garden courtyards, each different, and have a variety of textured walls and a changing ceiling ‘landscape to enliven them. This aids way finding and identification, another key benefit.

The three houses are similar in plan but have different themes based around local features. A maximum of seven bedrooms come off one corridor to keep them intimate. Each bedroom has large windows to a verandah with attractive outdoor space beyond. There are a variety of semi-private and more communal spaces throughout the houses to allow people to choose where they want to be. Some have a designated purpose some don’t. They all look out to gardens or views.

Outdoor spaces were a priority and there is a strong link between the indoor and outdoor areas. The dementia garden, especially, is a passively secure, sunny space that can be directly accessed from the house so that residents are free to roam in a safe, stimulating outdoor environment.

The more public areas were placed on the most public corner to extend an open hand to the community with a chapel and community centre grouped together with reception and admin around a courtyard with a café, hair salon, gym and kids playground to encourage family, friends and locals to enjoy.

Environmental sustainability was important. Features like orientation and solar collection were adopted but one of the key initiatives was to include as much natural light and ventilation as possible. This not only makes for a more pleasant and ‘normal’ internal environment and more akin to what these rural residents are used to, it reduces ‘smells’ and has the corollary benefit of saving on energy costs. An all-round win.

It is not easy to do ‘normal’ and comply with the often conflicting needs of a care environment but with a little thought and the right approach and commitment, it is not difficult either. We see this as a stepping stone in the right direction for designing more age friendly environments and will continue to develop our knowledge and skills to provide even better places to grow old in.

The Fifth Estate http://goo.gl/UNPQis