Design that enables a culture of respect

VIA’s Managing Director, Frank Bambino, explores the innovation marking the new wave of seniors living designs.

This article first appeared in the Summer 2019 edition of Fusion Magazine, an initiative of Leading Age Services Australia (LASA). Scroll down to read the article reproduced in full.

Reproduction of the article as printed in Fusion Magazine

Outward looking community supported by cafes, wellness centre and gathering spaces: this is the new wave of seniors’ accommodation that is far removed from the insular, monotone, institutional spaces that were ubiquitous in Australia for decades.

The best new designs for seniors are focused on integration with the wider community, and work hand-in-hand with the programs of providers to enable greater interaction across the generations. Institutions of the past were often segregating—but architects and providers alike now recognise that if we design spaces that are enablers, supporting independence and breaking down barriers, we encourage a culture of respect that enriches lives.

Across the spectrum of seniors living, from aged care to retirement, we need projects that blur the boundaries between the internal and external community to encourage interaction and avoid stigma.

Pavilions in Blackburn saw Via Architects design with both the community and the local environment in mind. We intentionally located a public café at the building’s frontage on Central Road, to welcome the whole community in, and create opportunities for residents to mingle with their neighbours.

A communal vegetable garden will take community engagement a step further, by inviting primary aged children from the neighbouring school, Nunawading Christian College, to join residents and actively participate in harvesting the food. This will not only educate children about where their food comes from, but create an environment that allows older people and younger people to learn from each other, and develop a mutual respect and appreciation for both stages of life.

Similarly, the introduction of the ‘Men’s Shed’ coupled with programs that will invite the high school students in, allow older residents to share their skills with the younger generation. By making an active contribution to their community, the seniors feel valued, and the young people may even be inspired to seek a career path in what they have learned.

An emerging theme in seniors’ accommodation is design premised on the notion of ‘precincts’ that encompass a range of amenities for all ages and needs. Via Architect’s key client TLC is one provider at the forefront of this shift; expanding its health care integration strategy to include a holistic approach to community wellbeing.

TLC’s Mordialloc development, soon to commence construction, brings parents, seniors, children and local residents together in one place, sparking incidental meetings but also providing an impetus for families to stay better connected. The site includes a residential aged-care home, childcare centre, community medical centre, health club, swimming pool and café. Old and young can stay connected, and inject a new energy, respect and positivity into each other’s lives.

Innovations emerging in the design of seniors’ accommodation shows that when architects and providers work closely together, we can instigate a positive shift in attitudes towards older people in our communities. No longer on the margins, those who age are given opportunities to share their wisdom can continue to make a positive contribution, and feel reinvigorated and respected.

The image displayed on the ‘Journal’ page for this article is VIA’s award-winning design for Arcare Templestowe, photographed by Jaime Diaz-Berrio.

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