Architect drawing on experience
Brisbane-based architect Ann-Maree Ruffles says it's an exciting time in the seniors living sector.
"Rather than being constrained by any one specific building type, we're now designing myriad living environments, including houses and apartments, in which most levels of care can be received," Ann-Maree said.
With 25 years' design experience across residential, health and masterplanning projects, Ann-Maree has been appointed Queensland Studio Leader for leading national design practice Hames Sharley.
Her goal is to create communities that circumvent the distress and isolation that result from relocation. Instead, she aims to design living environments that can accommodate diverse shifts in personal circumstances such as changes in familial structure and physical and mental health.
Drawing from her experience in designing for people with disabilities, Ann-Maree will also lead Hames Sharley's seniors living projects along Australia's east coast.
She is passionate about ageing "in place'' and believes that seniors living requires a multidisciplinary approach focused on social structures, place-making and community.
"In 2001, I designed a new home for my parents in the Gold Coast hinterland. It replaced their pale-blue weatherboard home to which my parents returned as newlyweds in 1961," Ann-Maree said.
"I was designing their final home, well suited to the shared life of intimate partners. It was to be a forum for grandparenting and with my father's advancing Parkinson's disease in mind.
"For my father, Parkinson's disease caused difficulties with depression and short-term memory.
"My father was born into a close-knit farming community. Links to these were key to his joy and wellbeing."
The new house included roofed decks edging the home, creating sheltered outdoor spaces that mimicked the social areas where her father used to gather with his farmer friends on verandas and under canopied trees.
"Walls between decks and internal spaces moved so that rooms became external,'' Ann-Maree said.
"These sheltered outdoor spaces were socially relevant to my parents and their friends. They felt at home there. Visiting was easy, a pleasure and, as a result, occurred often.''
Acknowledging that not everyone has the good fortune of remaining in the same community throughout their lives, Ann-Maree says she is excited by conversations focused on growing integrated communities.
"In focusing separately on strengthening communities for specific groups, we miss the opportunity to grow inclusive communities that are responsive to diverse needs. Great communities are inclusive, flexible, connected, resilient, responsive and equitable. They provide a sense of self, purpose, belonging and engagement."