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12 Dec 2018

Design for Ageing

Interior Magazine's Special Report on Design in the Aged-Care Sector

Bob Bull, Director of Assets and Development, speaks to Interior Magazine about how the participatory care model changes the environments and buildings being developed by The Selwyn Foundation. 

What are some of the largest changes you see happening in the aged-care business?

With the baby-boomer generation now reaching retirement age, there is more demand for an active-aging approach to life and, indeed care. The boomers are independent and want to remain that way for as long as possible. Retirement (or ‘non-retirement’) is considered a new and exciting chapter in their lives, with new experiences and ideas to be explored and enjoyed. Aging is no longer seen as a medical issue; rather, it is more about a person’s well-being. We now look at ‘person-directed living’ and participatory care models, where individuals tell us what they need and require for their personal well-being. As a result of the changing requirements of those moving into retirement villages and residential care, we are changing the environments and buildings being developed.

What part do the interiors play in ensuring a successful social enterprise and business?

The environment/interior can either create a community or create loneliness. In residential care, we are moving away from long corridors, and separate living, and creating households within buildings that look and function more like homes: open-plan kitchens, dining rooms, and indoor and outdoor living areas. People are encouraged and able to engage with one another in more natural ways, retreating to their suites for quiet and personal time, just as one does in a family home environment. Use it or lose it. Residents are encouraged to do more for themselves: a kitchen is provided so they can eat and have cups of tea when they want to. Families, too, can make themselves at home: bake, cook or grab tea or coffee. The laundry provides normality for both residents and families, should they wish to do their own laundry, as if they were still living in their own family homes. In independent living, villages are creating communal amenities where people can come together: shops, hairdressers, cafés, medical centres, cinemas, bowling greens, gyms, pools, chapels and more.

What have been some of the biggest interior changes you have seen taking place in your industry?

The biggest is the de-institutionalisation of facilities. Normalising the environment to be as home-like as possible – lounge, fireplace, dining-room table, kitchen – we are recognising that these buildings are actually people’s homes. Environments are being created where families are welcomed and can be part of their loved ones’ lives. Families are able to stay overnight, in specially designed whanau rooms, and staff-only areas and nursing stations are being removed. What will be some of the biggest challenges? Culture is a big issue. Many of the staff, residents and families of today are already institutionalised; it will take time for them to get used to the changes around independent living and to residents doing more for themselves. The physical environments of older facilities, simply can’t support the new models of care and ways of operating. So, massive investment is required for rebuilding.

How do you see technology making the jobs of aged-care industry professionals and facility managers better in the future?

Technology developments will allow people to remain at home in their communities for longer by enabling more services to be delivered into people’s homes. Within the care environment, technology is assisting us to work smarter, and providing more independence, assisting in practical handling and medication delivery, etc. Best-practice asset management will move to enhanced monitoring of facilities and this should deliver higher levels of service.

If you could give one piece of advice to anyone designing aged-care interiors, what would it be?

Live in the shoes of an older person to understand what their needs and requirements are, and what their limitations are. Then look to co-design with the customer (older people/residents and staff) to achieve a real fit-for-purpose design.


Click here for the latest issue of Interior Magazine featuring the full Design for Ageing Special Report.