Media Release

Aged Care Facilities Face Major Design Changes


Robert Caulfield Architecture

There is a need for a dramatic overhaul in how we think about Aged Care and how we design for it. 

Robert Caulfield

The current COVID-19 crisis across Australia will lead to a dramatic overhaul in how Australians think about aged care and how we design for it, Melbourne Architect Robert Caulfield said today.

“In the future, all visitors and staff could enter an aged care facility through a scanning room which automatically measures body temperature, breath samples and checks with a personal health passport becoming a reality.” 

Mr Caulfield said by necessity, the planning of facilities has mainly revolved around efficiencies of operation rather than the comfort of residents. 

Recent published research by recognized aged care research authority, Stewart Brown, reveals that 60% of facilities are making a loss, with an average loss of $2,835 per bed per year with rural facilities making larger losses than this.

“This year we saw the first decline in occupancy rates in aged care for at least eight years, with government funded home care packages obviously being a contributor to this,” Mr Caulfield said. 

“This means that people going into aged care are older, more frail and staying there for a shorter period of time, with aged care becoming to a certain extent, palliative care places which require tighter control on people working at or visiting facilities.“ 

The Federal government and the community recognise that there is a chronic shortfall in funding for aged care and the Federal Government has pledged billions of dollars to fix it. This will change the way aged care looks.

“Traditional aged care facilities were often designed in groups of 15 or so bedrooms for maximum efficiency of staffing and servicing of residents,” Mr Caulfield said.

“This will no longer be appropriate as designers and health authorities look to ways of isolating increasingly frail residents at very short notice, in the event of an infection outbreak. 

“We are likely to see aged care homes designed in pods of four to six bedrooms and a common lounge, with the pods being able to be isolated at a moment’s notice if required. Individual bedrooms will need to be isolated with special attention given to isolating and containing the air supply in each bedroom and each pod in the event of an outbreak.” 

Mr Caufield said that surfaces at aged care homes will need to be easily cleaned, so consideration of new building products which promise to destroy pathogens may soon be available.

“The challenge for operators and architects in designing new facilities is to provide a more controlled environment for an increasingly frail clientele without having them look like institutions. 

“As many residents are likely to be less mobile, their sensory experiences will need to be addressed from inside their care home. 

“Indoor courtyards and gardens, walking tracks, exercise areas will probably all form part of the interior design of facilities. 

“We are likely to see more visual attractions such as garden views from the bedrooms, aquariums, and perhaps a greater variety of colours and finishes,” Mr Caulfield said. 

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