Howthe evolution of good designmatters deeply to the future of the Seniors Living market.

By Nikki Beckman, National Director of Research & Innovation Marchese Partners


Make no mistake about it, the seniors living sector is set for inevitable and widespread industry change.

The findings of the current Royal Commission into Aged Care will force the hand of changeand in doing so will dramatically shape the future of the Aged Care industry – and rightly so I think we can all agree.

But for many within the sector, they aren’t waiting for the findings of the Royal Commission, expected to be handed down in just under a year from now on April 30th 2020. For these individuals and organisations, the winds of change have been quietly (but increasingly) blowing for some time.

Peak bodies, providers and organisationshave been advocating for reform across multiple aspects throughout the sector – access, services, quality of care, regulation, funding and the workforce. Thankfully a significant majority of the sector recognises maintaining the status quo will be a recipe for monumental disaster and grossly underperform in meeting the current, let alone future, needs and expectations of our ageing population.

As the boomers enter their so-called golden years, it’s widely understood that they have no intention whatsoever to go quietly into the good night. In the next 20 years, Australia must find new social, housing, and care strategies to accommodate a huge and growing population of ageing boomers who are loud, proud and bound to continue to make their mark, as they have in every past decade since their post-war debut.

Moreover, these boomers arrive at this stage of life cashed up with the unprecedented wealth they have generated over a lifetime of happily riding the peaks on the market roller-coaster and secure in their miraculous Australian fiscal gift – the family home.

The difference between this generation, and any other previous generation, is the overwhelming desire for continuity (of career and good health) and engagement (with community and the broader society). In the past, society may have desired to shut away, marginalise, isolate or otherwise remove the inconveniently old, but now, we know there is so much more to be gained from including an ageing population in every aspect of contemporary life.

Make no mistake, we are about to face the reality that many of the models we have developed for aged care must be re-examined with the new lens of continuous life quality and much greater community engagement.

We are now beginning to understand that rather than a quick recourse to care – many conditions can benefit most from inclusion in community and not marginalisation from families, youth and all of the benefits provided by the diversity of modern Australian life.

In this sense, change has always been needed.

Perhaps however, in the wake of public outcry and media focus surrounding the current Royal Commissioninto Aged Care, the catalyst for change has finally arrived. Now is perhaps the time for the industry to unashamedly jump right in and rip the band-aid right off.

Change is good. Change creates opportunities. Change forces us to reflect on what’s been done, to question why, and to ask what’s next. Change enables growth. Change is transformative. Change drives innovation. Change is good.

Change is a friend to good design. It’s what keeps us on our toes and uniquely qualifies us to help the seniors living sector navigate this landscape of change. The evolution of good design is a fascinating case study reflecting the evolution and maturity of societal values, attitudes and expectations.

Architecture has come a long way from its needs-based origins. In its infancy – and at its mostbasic and primal core –good design wasfundamentally been about providing protection and shelter. A roof over our head, a canopy to walk under, a shelter to wait within, a structure to retreat to from an impending threat. Back then, good design simply responded to a need.

But over the years, riding the perpetual wave of human nature’s strive for betterment, good design collected purpose and function along its way. Singular task-oriented building types arose in the way of hospitals, offices, schools, churches, factories, courthouses, police stationsetc – designed logically and practically to reflect an understanding and respect of tasks being undertakenwithin.Here, good design weighted heavily towards process, function and productivity in responding to ongoing needs. Treating the sick, minimisingthe spread of infection, generating efficiency, improving productivity, maintaininglaw and order. Institutional responsibilities.

As society evolved, a deeper understanding of the complexity and diversity of individuals and communities developed – and a shift from institutional authority gave way to the rise of consumers and people power.Good design unapologetically leapt beyond purpose and need to land at a moresocially responsive design position. Understandinghuman relationships, place, experience, connectivity and engagement,wellness, and behaivoural psychology. To respond appropriately and design accordingly.

We are currently living in the knowledge revolution. Never before has there been better access to more information than right now. We live in a globalised world of mega data, analytics, ecommerce, forecasting, trends and speculation – easily accessed with the click of a button.

But accessing information is not nearly enough. As the old saying goes, “its what you do with it that counts”. How we access information, understand its meaning and implications, and then apply its lessons – continuously – is key to meaningful progress.

The singular responsibility of gaining or acquiring knowledge is to use it – responsibly of course. Knowledge enables designers to think proactively, to make informed and considered decisions and to best design for inevitable change and emerging trends. Knowledge is empowering and enabling.

Empowered design places the consumer at the heart of the design. It emphasises experience, has a deep understanding of humanising space and enabling environments, and the intrinsic connections between people and place.

As a result of empowered design, sectors have blurred. Siloed mindsets have crumbled in exchange for collaborative thinking, and building typologies have been redefined, co-located and at times even consolidated. Take for example airports. They have evolved to becomedesirable, luxurious destinationshaving recognised the opportunity in transforming the retail, hospitality and customer service experience to meet the expectations of the discerning traveler. No longer are they simply gateways for international travel. Hospitals have embraced a human centered approach to care, partnering with highly reputable chefs to develop their in-house food service offering in response to patient feedback regarding improved moods associated with great food. Similarly, the embrace by the healthcare industry of biophilic principles has unquestionably transformed the healthcare experience as a result of understanding the significant improvements observed in patient lengths of stay and overall staff mental health through meaningful connections with daylight and nature. Equally, the transformation of contemporary workplace from yesteryear’s tower blocks with private corner offices to a more open plan and agile working environment. Offering flexible working hours and activity-based work spaces, the result of societal expectations, changing family dynamics and increased longevity of our working lives.

It has never been more important than now for good design to help navigate the changing landscape of seniors living as it embarks on significant transformation. It’s time for empowered design thinking across the industry. We know this won’t be easy, no significant change ever is. The sector is uniquely placed. It is both a residence and a workplace. A place of autonomy and a place of supportive care. A place of intimacy as well as social engagement and facilitation. Here, good design must empower across key themes of inclusivity, care, access, connectedness, communication, wellness, contribution and service – and engage across allconsumers holistically. That means residents, staff, volunteers, carers, and the broader community.

The sector has already undergone significant and welcomed design changes, shifting away from its original clinical roots. Aged Care has evolved to embrace a more residential-like experience reflecting the comforts and familiarity of home. Contemporary retirement villages appear closer to resort style living with locations and amenities to suit. Hotel-like hospitality and service quality has penetrated the sector with luxurious furnishings and finishes, desirable anchor tenancies with street appeal, and discrete separation of back of house operations.

Marchese Partners has a proud legacy for good design. We are champions of life-long learning and knowledge sharing through ongoing collaborationswith our industry partners, research institutes and academia such as the National Ageing Research Institute (Australia), Stirling University (UK), The Dementia Services Development Centre (UK), and the University of Melbourne School of Population and Global Health (Australia). We are passionately committed to learning and toengagingwith research – across multiple disciplines and expertise – each tackling the social, physical, environmental, and technological challenges facing our ageing population across the full spectrum of care. Similarly, we offer a conduit for research to apply its lessons within the parameters of operational realities and commercial practicalities. A two-way exchange of learning opportunities, and not just when a project need is realised. We facilitate opportunities in which our clients are invited to contribute to this exchange directly. An invitation increasingly accepted more and more. We use this cross collaboration of disciplines, expertise and knowledge to build our internal intelligence within our practice and to continue to improve and evolve our design philosophy.

Engagement with research is our passion. It is what sets us apart and enables us to respond positively, immediately and proactively to our clients to reflect evolving and emerging societal expectations. To reach great design outcomes and in turn improve the lives and experiences of all stakeholders within the seniors living sector.

Our design philosophy is founded on heavily supported evidence regarding social, physical and environmental attributes to ageing positively. Principles which enhance the spirit of life, and are centered on pillars of inclusion, engagement, autonomy and connection. Our design principles are Marchese Partner’s DNA. Our blueprint. They guide a projects vision and provide a consistent framework for design decisions throughout the life of the project.

Take for example Waterbrook Greenwich and Watermark Castle Cove. Both projects were completed by Marchese Partners in the mid 2000’s, pioneering the lifestyle led approach to retirement livingwe are accustomed to expecting today in direct response to evolving market needs. Both projects offer amenities and a lifestyle more akin to 5-star hotels and resorts – emphasising a quality of lifeweighted heavily towards living more so than retiring. Both Waterbrook and Watermark remain destinations of choice, and still to this day, are considered benchmark developments in Sydney – a testament to their responsive design, a brave and willing client and meeting change with a positive mindset.

Or a more recent example, the 2016 Mark Moran Vaucluse, designed by Marchese Partners. This project hasin many ways completely revolutionised the way the sector now considers, designs for and values our ageing population. In meeting the demands of its savvy baby boomer market, Vauclusehas redefined the sector in the quality of its offer, incorporating emergent models of care, and integration of productmix across the full spectrum of care.From independent living apartments through to fully dependent dementia care accommodation.

The design of Vaucluse wholeheartedly centers on principles of sensory and social connection, . It warmly embraces natural light through the 5-storey high glass atrium –incidentally acting as both an informal social facilitator and an important way finding reference tool on each floor. A ‘paddock to plate’ onsite garden, fully accessible, nourishes the outstanding produce from the 5-star restaurant constructed in its own pavilion to encourage the continuance of enjoying the formality, experience and theatre of exceptional dining for residents with family and friends and the broader community.The design inspires permeation of residents, staff, friends and community to comingle throughout the building and across the site. It is open, transparent, highly desirable, diverse and socially connected. Luxurious amenities offered throughout balanced againstthe discretion of facility operations and services underpin the evolution of societal expectations in quality of life as we age.

Similarly, Life CareGaynes Park in Adelaide, also designed by Marchese Partners, has helpeddrivepositive change in its transformativedesign approach to contemporaryresidential Aged Care facilities.Proudly, this project is one of Australia’s first to receive gold star accreditation by Stirling University’s Dementia Services Design Centre and a silver award for best architecture at the 6th eldercare innovation awards. Itsuccessfully reflects the emergent clustered household model of care with the absence of corridors and offersdecentralised smaller living areas within each ‘household’ cluster to reflect a more natural neighborhood dynamic with scalable degrees of social interaction. It is a model whichembracesthe needs of our ageing population who face the challenges of living with or caring for someone who lives with dementia. From passive memory triggers assisting way finding, reducing unobtrusive risks, humanising scale, optimising helpful stimulation and promoting social interaction and independence.

But good design must continue to evolve, mature and improve.

The challenge which lies ahead for the sector is in balancing the enjoyment and quality of contemporary lifestyle led offerings – and diversifying what exactly this might be and look like – with meaningful and authentic connections to the community in which our seniors are so intrinsically apart of. Continuing to encourage 2-way social integration and re-establishing the value of seniors living communities in our neighbourhoods. As anchors within the communities.

The ongoing responsibility of good design is the continual strive for betterment. Underpinned by research, collaboration, knowledge, and learnings. Where near enough should never be good enough. To share and collaborate, to learn from what’s been done before, and to question why and how.

Here at Marchese Partners, werecognise the inevitability of change facing the industry currently and are sensitive to the challenges and complexities it presents. Make no mistake, it won’t be easy, but the opportunity to make positive change is compelling and exciting and we welcome the opportunities it affords just as we have helped navigate change in the past. Change will enable good design the space it needs to grow and mature.

And in the context of this discussion, good design simply must matter.