One topic we are particularly looking forward to hearing more about at ACSA National Summit is Improving Residential Aged Care Environments through Co-design.
It is incredibly interesting to look at how resident health and wellbeing improves when facility design is well researched, planned and executed.
We have seen drastic changes to the physical environment of residential aged care, even in recent years. Gone are the days of institutionalised care and of sterile, impersonal environments that mimic hospital wards. These are being phased out in favor of environments that put the person first.
Many providers are returning to more homely care environments that evoke feelings of comfort and familiarity, reminiscent of the residents own home before they moved into care.
Facilities that care for people living with dementia find this technique particularly useful. Streets, gardens and shops are replicated in the facilities outdoor environment. These replicas of familiar places from the residents past drastically reduce wandering and other behaviors associated with agitation.
Most aged care facilities provide gardens and outdoor areas for their residents to enjoy. Residents utilise the space to catch up with family and friends during visits, or to relax and gain some peace and quiet. These spaces are also commonly used for residents to enjoy gardening or exercise.
Green spaces can offer incredible mental as well as physical benefits, provided they are designed effectively.
“Generic plotting of green space on an urban plan does not target mental wellbeing
unless it is designed to engage us with the sights, sounds and smells of nature.”
This article offers valuable insight how nature aids in restoring cognitive and emotional function. These ‘escapes to nature’ can help ward off anxiety, depression and other mental illnesses that are found more commonly in city dwelling people.
Designing green spaces that promote health and wellbeing doesn’t require tonnes of space, but it does require more thought than just rolling out a lawn!
Some tips for creating useful green spaces:
- Generic parks and gardens are often ineffectual green spaces because they are unimaginative, dull and repetitive
- The space should encourage walking or lingering to enjoy the space for an extended period of time – maximising restorative mental benefits
- Diversity of elements is essential – immersive and multi-sensory experiences involve sights, sounds and smells associated with nature
- Combine a variety of ways in which people can use the space – to rest, observe, listen or exercise
“Co-design is the process of designing solutions with the people who will use or deliver the service.
Co-design attempts to define a challenge, understand it, then create a solution together with stakeholders.”
Co-design empowers aged care residents by designing environments based on their needs, rather than expecting residents to fit to their environment, as has been done in the past. Aged care providers work with residents and other stakeholders (including architect companies) to produce creative, interactive environments that improve the wellbeing of the resident.
Co-design is gaining traction within the aged care industry. A collaborative and holistic approach towards designing aged care environments could very well be the future of the industry.
Design of this nature would mean the end of self contained facilities that are disconnected and cut off from the rest of the world. With stakeholder engagement, we would see facilities better integrated with the community, and easier access to the community for residents.
We look forward to hearing more about the future of co-design at the show – hope to see you there!