New residential aged care design challenges the status quo

Last updated on 13 July 2023

The artist’s impression of Fresh Hope Communities’ Green Hills Residential Care Services, featuring a natural colour palette reflecting the local environment. [Source: LinkedIn]

What does the future of aged care look like? Does it include a pinwheel-shaped building with floor-to-ceiling windows, accessible community spaces with playgrounds and a cafe dishing up must-have coffee for busy workers? For architecture and interior design firm Calderflower, it’s all of that and more. 

Residential aged care is undergoing considerable transformation. Outdated buildings are being renovated or demolished, new models of care are being adopted and providers are heavily investing in positive ageing within the community – not outside of it. 

With 168 beds, Fresh Hope Communities Green Hills (NSW) is an ambitious new build; it has a large footprint, is surrounded by nature and embraces small households for its residents. Arranged like a pinwheel with four wings around a central communal area, Lara Calder, Managing Director at Calderflow, said they wanted to create a warm and efficient space, which was an exciting challenge designing an ‘enormous monster of a building’. 

“I love challenging the status quo and it’s good to do something new. It’s a whole new model [for aged care] and it’s untested, that type of building configuration, and we are trying to deinstitutionalise aged care so it feels very warm, comfortable and textured. That was the biggest driver in the brief, to keep it warm,” Ms Calder explained. 

“Because the site is beautiful, it has a beautiful riparian corridor and some very established significant trees, we wanted people to stay strongly connected with nature. The ends of the wings are V-shaped and they act like a garden room for residents.”

“The whole building is connected to the outside, very transparent and light because a lot of people in aged care don’t go outside; they’re frail and have limited mobility so they experience the world from an internal environment and that connection with nature is really important.”

A bird’s eye view of Fresh Hope Communities Green Hills pinwheel design during construction. [Source: Twitter]

What else does it offer?

  • A large community kitchen that can be accessed by independent living residents and family
  • Outdoor gardens for growing fruit and vegetables
  • Large outdoor spaces with play equipment for children and picnic areas
  • Onsite allied health and wellness centre with a gym and physio
  • Respite care services for external carers and community members

If you approached any member of the general public and asked them to describe a residential aged care home, you would likely receive a dull brief of a “facility” with dark rooms, old furniture, hospital corridors and little activity. It’s a frustrating stereotype that has seen many ageing people refuse to enter aged care until they have to – or have no other choice.

Hence why Fresh Hope Communities has taken a fresh approach to their new build. Calderflower had relatively free rein throughout the design process and by working off a clean slate they created something intended to be utilised by the local East Maitland community. The Green Hills Residential Care Service has an established presence but a reinvigorated approach has resulted in a building with an eye-catching facade, shared spaces and intrigue. 

“Fresh Hope Communities really wanted to connect with their on-site retirement living community so families can come in and visit, plus there are lovely playgrounds and outdoor activities that will draw people in. So it keeps the space active and lively; it’s not just a sad old place where old people stare out of the window,” Ms Calder said.

“The food is really nice. The coffee is really good. You can get a glass of wine. It’s like any normal place where you would want to go and spend some time and enjoy it.” 

One of the smaller interior spaces that promotes activity and socialisation in a natural, light filled room. [Source: LinkedIn]

“It’s so heartwarming to see people find real joy in living in these places that have a lot of stigma around them; the negativity of moving into aged care and of life. So we’re trying to turn that perception around and actually make people move into a place that’s almost nicer than their home.”

Aged care is not just at a turning point, it’s already heading in a new direction. Providers, architects and designers are working together to create exciting spaces that encourage healthy ageing. It’s shaking up the foundations, giving more power to individuals as they get older.

“The baby boomers are talking about aged care as the last thing anyone wants to live in. But there are things that stop people from connecting with others when they age and I think aged care does have an important place in society,” Ms Calder said.

“That’s why I think buildings like this are so important to showcase because you want people to see that aged care can be done really well.”

aged care
interior design
small household
aged care design
modern aged care
fresh hope communities