Both the number and the proportion of older Australians will continue to rise in the coming decades. In fact, by 2096, 25% of Australia’s population will be 65 years old and over. Our ageing population will affect many different aspects of our culture and society, from social policies to the economy. It will also demand radically reimagined aged care solutions.
In this article, we review how design, construction, technology and sustainability are combining to deliver Australian aged care facilities of the future.
Design and Construction Trends in Aged Care
Resident privacy and lifestyle are two driving forces behind some of today’s design and construction trends in aged care facilities. For example, semi-private rooms and shared bathrooms are giving way to single occupancy rooms with private bathrooms. Lifestyle spaces are providing residents with more involved social opportunities and are encouraging familiar exercise for the able, such as bowling greens.
Renewed physical design of aged care facilities isn’t only to the benefit of residents. According to aged care development expert Danny Hammon of Woollam Constructions, architects also need to prioritise the movement of staff:
“A big thing we look at is the efficiencies within the building, and how far staff have to walk from point A to B, and try to really narrow that down to make the facility run as efficiently as possible,” he says.
Using Technology to Administer Better Resident Care
Innovations like wearable technologies are empowering facilities to administer better resident care. Wearable technology and the internet of things in aged care are providing staff with real-time alerts, streamlining how they locate and use equipment, and improving meal identification and tracking.
Additionally, automated services promise to allow residents with lower care needs to better maintain their independence at facilities.
Using Technology to Empower Staff
The future of the aged care sector faces a significant staffing challenge. In fact, the aged care workforce will need to grow by 167% by the year 2050 to meet resident demand. Technology innovations will play a deciding role in assisting this workforce to administer care to a rapidly growing number of residents.
Developments in Respite Care
New technologies will also help to make respite care more efficient and effective in the future. There has been some discussion of the “Uber-fying” of respite care, where on-demand care is provided as and when people need it, right to their doorstep.
However, concerns surrounding qualification, supervision and accountability of these service providers will likely keep respite care firmly within the control of certified facilities and government-backed home care providers.
Innovations in the Treatment of Dementia
Innovations in virtual reality are helping to alleviate the anxiety associated with dementia. Researchers are using virtual reality headsets to help calm dementia patients and improve their mood. Virtual reality headsets are helping dementia sufferers to feel that they’re in peaceful surroundings like beaches and forests, and stay relaxed for hours afterwards.
Developments in Creating Sustainable and Profitable Facilities
Many new aged care facilities in Australia are being designed with an eye toward environmental sustainability. From the materials incorporated into the building through to the methods used during construction, future aged care facilities in Australia will be more environmentally sustainable than ever before.
They’ll also be more profitable. The Aged Care Financing Authority has stated that funding and financial reforms have strengthened both the viability and the sustainability of the aged care facility sector. Furthermore, they reported that the average EBITDA per resident per annum increased 8.9% from 2014-2015 to 2015-2016.
A growing pool of lump sum accommodation deposits and new means testing arrangements will help the long-term sustainability of aged care services. Additionally, the design of aged care facilities can contribute to future profitability, by incorporating smarter operational technologies and renewable energy.
Author: Jason Shepheard | Director, ACT