NEW CHOICES: Woollam Constructions' General manager Danny Hammon reveals some international trends that will shape the future of seniors living.
NEW CHOICES: Woollam Constructions' General manager Danny Hammon reveals some international trends that will shape the future of seniors living.

Five international trends to influence Seniors living

BY 2066 almost one in four Australians will be aged 65 and over, creating a boom in today's retirement living market.

With more than a decade of experience in seniors residential design and living, Woollam Constructions' General manager Danny Hammon reveals some international trends that will shape the future of seniors living in Australia, sharing real examples of how new thinking is transforming old models.

The Chocolate Quarter
The Chocolate Quarter

Integrating lifestyle and care:

Once upon a time older Australians had a choice of either nursing homes which were clinical and sterile like hospitals, or ''old-age'' retirement villages with limited facilities and activities. The influx of the baby boomers has led a movement towards ''lifestyle-focussed'', as opposed to ''care-driven'' developments, and demand for greater amenities.

How do we accommodate a lifestyle desire that's vastly different to previous generations while also providing care? A reconverted chocolate factory near Bristol in the south-west of England is proving a gamechanger in community living.

When we first arrived at St Monica Trust's Chocolate Quarter, I wasn't quite sure if we were in the right place. It did not feel like a retirement village. Located at the former Cadbury's factory in Keynsham, it consists of 136 apartments and a 93-bed care home.

The Chocolate Quarter boasts about raising the bar and this can be seen in everything from the beautifully designed apartments, a grand atrium with the luxuries of a five-star hotel, a gym, pool, nine-hole golf course, shopping arcade and cinema. There is also high-level care home within the development which provides care for those in need of long-term nursing, dementia care, respite and palliative care.

The Chocolate Quarter reinforces, that while this is a care industry, changing demographics mean changing demand so it must evolve as a service and lifestyle industry. It also demonstrates that we can look to other industries, particularly hospitality, and learn from them.

Hallmark Chamberlain Court
Hallmark Chamberlain Court Contributed

Sky's the limit - the rise of vertical villages:

The 2018 PwC/Property Council Retirement Census showed 30% of new developments are either vertical or a combination of vertical and broadacre. This reflects the trend of cashed-up empty nesters and boomers moving back into city centres seeking the ''vibe'', ''bright lights'' and entertainment ''variety'' they enjoyed in their footloose twenties and early thirties.

This has inspired vertical villages anywhere between two and 10 storeys, with varied levels of care provided in the same building. Hallmark Care's Chamberlain Court is a multiple award-winning 72-bedroom village in Royal Tunbridge Wells near Kent.

They provide relationship-centred care and a ''home for life'' not a room for life which means residents can adjust their health needs as they change over time. They have an "upside-down'' approach: The ground floor was high-end residential living where residents could receive care if requested. Level 1 was dementia care, while Level 2 provided nursing care dedicated to supporting people with both simple and complex needs. The top floor contained all the back of house functions and also a bar and terrace area for the residents.

I found it interesting having no rooms available on the top floor, because in the Australian market the upper floor is seen as a premium offering. But not at Hallmark where the ground floor rooms come at a premium because of direct access to private courtyards.

The Royal Hospital Chelsea
The Royal Hospital Chelsea

From Cocoon to community hubs:

Two decades ago retirement villages were more like compounds, shut off from the wider community. I remember that 1980s movie ''Cocoon'' in which a group of seniors ''escape'' to swim in a nearby pool that contains alien cocoons and gives them a new lease on life. More and more, modern retirement villages are opening the gates - to their pools, gardens and grounds - so the outside community is welcomed in. From flower shows, to concerts and family reunions, they are becoming destinations in their own right.

There wouldn't be many, if any, aged care providers in the world, who are fortunate to have a 66 acre site on the fringes of a major city which has an 17th century ''castle'' and provides the space to hold rock concerts and international flower shows. I am talking about the Royal Hospital Chelsea, a historic retirement and nursing home for British Army veterans. Yet it does not mean we could take a lesson from the way the Chelsea Pensioners embrace and integrate with the wider community.

Today, may villages in Australia have external communal areas, internal roadways, community halls that could be used for a variety of events as food and wine festivals, smaller scale music events, monthly antique fairs and farmers markets.

In a related trend, not only does this approach "share”retirement villages with the rest of the community, but it capitalises on the assets of the operators to diversify their revenue streams.

Redefining dementia care:

Communities do not have to be geographic communities.

They can be about shared activities and lifestyle experiences that create meaning and connection. A small village surrounded by forests and fields in the Danish countryside has an innovative model for dementia care. Dagmarsminde is a village, where nature and well-being, proximity and equality is paramount. The house has nine beds - all designed around a central lounge, dining and kitchen area which creates a very welcoming warm, home like environment - and you can tell the residents love this.

Dagmarsminde's philosophy is that the life of a person living with dementia must be meaningful. The residents are encouraged to care for one another - they cook, they clean and they take care of the resident cat, chickens, goats and rabbits.

There are no restrictions around the house, with everyone free to roam around the property as they like. Watching the relaxed, cheerful behaviour and interaction of the residents was very gratifying - it was such a wonderfully pleasant environment, exactly like that of a normal house setting.

Using technology to enhance senior living:

Picture a specialised testing facility; an "innovation” hub where professional therapists test new products that assist the elderly. A place where the best minds collaborate, innovate, develop and test inventions against one common goal - creating greater mobility, independent lifestyles and an increased quality of life for the elderly.

The Centre of Assistive Technology in Copenhagen reviews, tests and advises on new products and innovations, and conducts workshops and educational seminars for therapists, citizens and caregivers to assist finding the right assistive aids.

Essentially, they provide ground-breaking options for elderly and impaired to modify their home in a way that supports their needs and maintains their independence.

We viewed some amazing products. The future of assistive technology is an exciting space and makes great headway for more comfortable and independent living for our aging population.

This could redefine the way independent living units and care facilities are designed. Watch this space.

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  • At Woollam we talk about "building seniors communities for life''. After more than a decade working in the retirement living construction industry with Woollam, I have been fortunate to share in people's stories and I've seen the difference the right environment, the right building and the right care can make for the rest of their lives.

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