It is no secret that Senior Citizen Housing is an expanding field that in recent years has become one of the fastest growing components of the real estate market. However this field of study is still largely neglected in mainstream design consideration, as opposed to other forms of housing such as that of high rise living, and the possible forms of densification that will occur over the next 30 years in Australia.
As we move into the Twenty First Century, we as a developed world community are increasingly being faced with the intensifying problem that is housing for the elderly. The economic cost of current care facilities is out of control, and as we approach the end of the first decade of the Twenty First Century we are about to be faced with waves of people from the baby boomer generation reaching retirement age which will stretch already limited care environments.
One of the major reasons we will be faced with problems in housing the elderly in the future is simply the method and cost of providing the skilled, technical care through the Nursing Homes and Aged Care Facilities that dominate the current aged care market within Australia. State-of-the-art equipment and capital works are expensive, skilled labour is becoming scarce thus the availability of aged care places will become rare, and the system as it stands will become unstable. For this reason amongst many others the current models for aged care and its funding must seriously be challenged.
It can easily be foreseen that with the increasing costs in medical care within Australia’s economically stretched environment, there will be decreases in funding for personal care; which must be considered as having an equal footing for the recovery, well being and care of the aged public. Without a change, we as a society are headed for a very slippery slope into a careless aged care pattern, where the dollar will have total control over the way many of us will live the later part of lives.
At this point in time there are still many ways we can alter the course which we are headed for the future, we should look not only to those countries overseas who are experiencing similar problems to ourselves, but also to more natural methods of care in the aim of reducing high medical costs and allowing increases in the mental and physical well being of occupants for the future.
Industry leaders, particularly overseas are beginning to experiment with ideas focused on the removal of the institution from aged care, and the re introduction of the idea of ‘community’.¹ The aim of this is to encourage the spreading of the responsibility of care back to the community, and partially place the emphasis for care onto families in much the same manner of a time gone by. We should be looking to cultures such as those of many parts of Europe and Asia for solutions to the aged care dilemma as these areas not only seem to have been able to maintain traditional forms of caring for elderly, but more importantly have already been effected by many of the same problems that we will face in the coming years.
The issue of Aged Care and its future is possibly one of the most important aspects that will face our culture and community over the next few decades. Within the topic itself there are many instances in which we can begin to analyse and criticize many of the current practices employed on a global scale. However critical to all issues surrounding aged care is the common thread that without change to the primary or underlining principals from which our current design theory is based, all aspects of aged care provision will continue to be unfulfilled in what otherwise would be reasonably adaptable design issues.
Through this body of research I have chosen to highlight the principal issues that will face the changing attitudes to aged care as to primarily form an underlying understanding of the inherent problems the direction our current society and its political structure will face over the coming years in the hope of understanding new ways to think about the problem at hand.
1 ‘Community’, referring to the introduction of the community as a whole, as opposed to the community within Aged Care.