May 10, 2023
The CARE Village is an aged care facility located in Ngongotaha, just outside of Rotorua, and as the NZ pioneers of a recently approved care model, is steadily transforming the aged care sector around the country.
Design for a world-leading care model.
With their current lease not far from expiring, The CARE Village had the opportunity to build a new facility on the lakefront land they had secured in 2014. The Village team’s proclivity towards enhanced well-being and quality of life led to their research on alternative care models overseas. Instead of venturing down the traditional institutional route, they instead embraced a new social-relational model, inspired by the world’s first ‘dementia village’: The Hogeweyk in The Netherlands.
The Hogeweyk opened in 2009 and has become globally renowned for its person-centred high-quality care and treatment for people with dementia. The village’s philosophy surrounds the de-institutionalisation of the traditional nursing home concept, instead offering a place where residents can live in familiar surrounds. This is achieved with an inclusive community, the promotion of active social lives and through the preservation of autonomy and freedom, all whilst providing professional medical care.
With consent from the Ministry of Health to pilot this model in NZ, Ignite were appointed to help design the pioneering project. Based on a small-scale town, The CARE Village allows and encourages residents to lead a ‘normal’ life, within a secure perimeter.
The model is particularly ground-breaking for residents with dementia, who can often reside in functional, yet sterile hospital-style facilities. The CARE Village offers residents a homely, relatable environment, with deep consideration given to the needs of dementia patients. This is demonstrated with inclusions such as looped pathways and walking routes, effectively reducing sources of stress or anxiety. Potential concerns surrounding resident isolation are negated, with multiple social areas, green spaces and room for group activities, visitors, and even pets.
The thirteen households each have six to seven bedrooms and a carefully crafted home environment. Residents are encouraged to help with cooking, laundry, gardening, or simple tasks like making tea, reinforcing every-day routine – and consequently familiarity, into the village lifestyle.
Grant Barrowman, Ignite’s Design Architect on The CARE Village says, “It was a balancing act, designing spaces that are safe and secure without feeling institutional. A great deal of research and consideration was needed to define how the village could be homely, whilst providing hospital-level care and functions. Somewhere that residents could relax and socialise, whilst incorporating panic buttons and sensors.
“Prior to design, we needed to ascertain who we were serving- what phases of life they were in before they began suffering from dementia. The spaces needed to reflect an era the residents were familiar with, as well as be flexible to evolve over time with a different demographic.”
The design response was to create a small New Zealand town, with aspects such as weatherboard cladding and verandas, a town ‘centre’ for people to gather, a village shop, tea rooms and a community space. Residents are grouped in the homes according to shared interests and environmental background, with interiors designed to further augment each group’s era.
Shara Paulo, who orchestrated the delivery of the project for Ignite says, “We needed to ensure the design could adapt over time to cater for changing demographics and norms. Flexibility was ingrained in planning so that fittings, finishes and furniture could be updated with the fluidity of trends. Longer lasting elements were allocated a more neutral palette to compliment these changing features.”
Completed in September 2017, The Care Village has received exceptional feedback from its community and the Ministry of Health. Further bolstering its success is the project’s design recognition, awarded with the EBOS Healthcare - Overall Excellence in Aged Care Award and Jackson Van Interiors Built and Grown Environment Award in 2020.
Transformation for NZ’s Aging Population
The Village’s success reaches beyond individual merit. After monitoring a five-year pilot of The CARE Village, the Ministry of Health has approved this model of care for use across the country. Offering familiarity, comfort and stimulation, the model has been proven to offer incredible benefits, improving residents’ health and well-being, and reducing the need for conflict management. Instead, staff can spend time improving residents’ quality of life, which might manifest in the form of hobby groups, fun events, or trips to town along the lakefront, and to local attractions.
Any aged care provider in New Zealand can now choose between the traditional model and this new social-relational model –offering flexibility for both providers and residents.
At Ignite, we can already see the ripple effect of other major aged care providers featuring social-relational aspects in their designs. This can be with subtle connections to the community, such as dedicated boardwalks that feed into the public boardwalk network, through to facilities that mirror The Care Village’s housing model, feeling far from clinical.
With this innovative new model of care in place, New Zealand continues to be a front runner in the aged care sector globally. The model not only benefits current residents, but opens up a path for research, supporting sector development for future generations too.
Design may evolve over time, but the human need for social connection, purpose and a stimulating environment remains consistent, for all ages.