Adam Taylor on the transformation of aged care design

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Ignite director Adam Taylor spoke with INsite magazine about the role design firms play in reimagining retirement villages and aged care facilities to meet changing client needs.

The word “retirement” used to mean stepping back from one’s previous life. Abandoning work in the city and moving to the peace of the countryside, giving up large family homes for a manageable garden, retreating to a suburban gated community. Retirement also used to come with its own distinct form of architecture – the low, sprawling rest home with its dormitory-like corridors haunted by boiled peas past, the brick unit or villa in its own complex, moated by gardens to keep it separate from the rest of the world. Within the past decade, however, a quiet design revolution has been bringing the gates down and turning up the modern emphasis on individual choice, promising to transform the very definition of retirement.

Many “retirement villages” are now being renamed “lifestyle villages”, busting the stereotype of the quiet segregated community. Design firms instead focus on creating amenities that provide stimulation and engagement with society, so even those unable to leave their rooms for periods of time can feel part of the lively community through their window. Think spas, yoga rooms and gyms, with public facilities like petting zoos, childcare centres, hairdressers and cafes open to all comers. Twenty or even 10 years ago, a visit to any facility like this would mean a trip into town. Now many baby boomers are reluctant to give up the conveniences they’ve acquired over the years, let alone their active lifestyles, and the town is coming to them.

The other crucial trend of the aged care facilities of the future is their verticality. As apartment living gains increasing acceptance in New Zealand, so too retirees are embracing the convenience of living in developments four to seven storeys tall, with minimal maintenance required. Outwardly, there’s little to distinguish the new breed of aged care facilities from any other type of apartment. Witness Killarney Residences in the Auckland suburb of Takapuna (main image). Directly fronting on to the road among suburban houses and apartments with garage doors for internal parking and views across the neighbouring park, Lake Pupuke and harbour, it might be another luxury development for well-heeled North Shore residents, with a café on the ground floor and a hair and nail salon.

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