World Building of Year 2018, Kampung Admiralty in Singapore.
World Building of Year 2018, Kampung Admiralty in Singapore. K Kopter

Thinking of retirement living? The sky's the limit

RETIREMENT living design has been thrust into international limelight as the height and style head towards the sky.

Late last year Singapore's innovative Kampung Admiralty project won World Building of the Year. It isn't an office tower. It's not a flashy hotel. Nor is it a cultural centre. It's a showcase of the latest in vertical biodiverse retirement living design with its social housing, large green footprint, health services, cross generational hub and vibrant community spaces supporting integration, not isolation, for its residents.

Kampung architect Pearl Chee of the Singapore firm WOHA said the aim of the government-sponsored pilot project was to integrate an independent living seniors community within an accessible and vibrant public space.

The unique design is layered. At the lowest levels are a public plaza with a food court, neighbourhood retail shops. In the middle is the medical care centre with specialist rooms. On top of that is the quieter activities of an elder care centre next door to the childcare centre, and landscape terraces. Above that again is the social housing.

The lower food court and retail are of Kampung Admiralty, Singapore.
The lower food court and retail are of Kampung Admiralty, Singapore. Darren Soh

"About 80 per cent of Singaporeans live in social housing," Ms Chee said. As they age most of them look to downsize. The Kampung project has 104 apartments sized either 35sqm and 45sqm and each with an open kitchen, one bathroom and one bedroom.

The project design also set out to encourage different generations to interact. "The idea was to have a mix so the community was more vibrant," Ms Chee said. "It's not a closed-up project. This is a very public building where everyone can access 24 hours. There is no fence."

The terraces are designed to encourage exercise, social interaction among the residents and spending time with young visitors. "The operators of the care centres have arranged for combined programs so on a weekly basis the young and the old are actually interacting in arts and craft programs or meals together," Ms Chee added. For some residents, their grandchildren attend the Kampung childcare centre.

Australia is there alongside the Singaporeans in design and innovation. Its models may vary because of the needs of this country versus those of Singapore, but when it comes to smart downsizing, Australia is on-trend.

Australia's Retirement Living Council executive director Ben Myers said there are a range of design innovations, including mixed used developments and multi-generational connections such as in the Kampung project, being seen in Australia and which are changing the concept of retirement living away from the horizontal villages in gated communities.

Two of the newest vertical retirement living choices are U City in Adelaide and Aveo Newstead in Brisbane.

Brisbane's upstanding Aveo Newstead at dusk.
Brisbane's upstanding Aveo Newstead at dusk. Graham Philip

The 2018 PwC/Property Council Retirement Census (PPCRC) reports only 4% of Australian villages are now vertical and this number isn't likely to change soon. Firstly, there are some significant hurdles to overcome.

"One of the challenges is certainly the planning schemes that exist around Australia that in some instances, make that really hard," Mr Myers said. In West Australia, for example, the planning laws preclude the villages from carrying out anything other than retirement accommodation.

In the minds of many planners, retirement living and aged care are one and the same. But, they're not."

It's the community support and facilities that are not being included in a planning schemes, he said.

"The other challenge is the investment side and getting the capital," Mr Myers added. "Retirement villages can only take intentions to buy into account.

They don't have that binding deposit to help finance (a project)."

A horizontal village can be built in several stages. A vertical village has to be in one.

"There is a transition away from the traditional financial models, which have helped the industry to grow, to now the operators saying if they are going to go vertical, which is what many people are desiring, particularly in capital cities, then they need the capital to build that all in one stage," Mr Myers said.

"It's a riskier proposal and requires great confidence that the operator can turn intention to buy into residents."


Mr Myers sees the Brisbane Aveo Newstead development, which won the Award for Design Excellence at the 2018 National Retirement Living Awards, as a great example of the new thinking in mixed use development.

The 19-storey, inter-city tower ticks the boxes for retail, community dining, aged care and retirement living. "It's a new concept in an urban renewal area," Mr Myers said. "I think that is going to be something we see more of over the next few years."

The top level lounge bar and dining area of Brisbane's Aveo Newstead.
The top level lounge bar and dining area of Brisbane's Aveo Newstead. Graham Philip

Aveo Group chief executive officer Geoff Grady talks with great pride about what has been achieved in Newstead project which opened last year. "It's the future of retirement living in this country," Mr Grady said.

The secured upper levels of the layered complex have bought together three distinct accommodation and care products. It has 144 one, two and three-bedroom independent living apartments. It has also 55 apartments for low to medium care clients plus an aged care facility with 99 residential bedrooms.

Mr Grady noted this structure "enables residents to transfer seamlessly between those offerings when their care needs are elevated".

On the lower levels there is a hotel unit for overnight rental by family members of the owners of the complex's apartments and 4000 sqm of resident recreational facilities area which includes a large community garden, gym, day spa, library, movie theatre, a-la-carte restaurant, bar, business centre, beauty salon and even a sky bar and private dining room on the top floor.

All of this is wired for the technology of today and into the future utilising various tools including Google Home.

On the bottom level and open to the whole community is a Woolworths supermarket, coffee shop, pharmacy and medical centre.

Mr Grady is finding the age group buying in are mostly in their 70s which is consistent with the PPCRC which found the average entry age of residents is 75. "Why they are buying is because of the integration of their care," he added.

Uniting Communities U City development in Adelaide, due to open in mid 2019.
Uniting Communities U City development in Adelaide, due to open in mid 2019.

U City

South Australia's Uniting Communities U City has taken a similar approach to Aveo's Newstead with its Adelaide development, but with a few key variations.

The inter-city layered development is on an existing UC-owned site and opens in mid-2019. It is central to many of the amenities its new residents will require and want.

The 20-storey building incorporates 41 independent living apartments, 21 specialist disability independent living accommodation, 18 short-stay serviced apartments suitable for people with disabilities who are there for work or holidays in Adelaide, open access indoor and outdoor recreational areas and a public access retail including a bar and food outlets with the balance taken up by a 420-seat function and convention centre plus commercial tenancies including the UC head office and its social services operational staff.

Its chief executive officer Simon Schrapel AM believes U City reflects the organisation's commitment to providing social services while providing inclusive and integrated, dynamic community in the city, in a financially viable model.

U City's club lounge balcony.
U City's club lounge balcony.

The site, both retail and short-stay accommodation, will be run 24/7. Its entrance is designed to welcome the public with the doors able to be pushed back to facilitate flow to and from the street frontages.

The Baby Boomers needs have taken a high priority in the design of the new centre. Internet savvy, wanting better health options, options to mix with other demographics; they are showing a great deal of interest in U City.

"It's indicative of the group that want to continue to explore new horizons and territories, and I think that is what we are offering in many senses is the opportunity to do that rather than feel this is the last stage of your life," Mr Schrapel said.

Ultimately, Mr Schrapel expects the former UC head office building sitting adjacent to U City building will also be developed for social housing and aged care accommodation.

The vertical living innovations are being driven by the desires of retirees said Mr Myers. Some, but not all want cross-generational spaces. Others want high interaction with the broader community.

"This comes in so many different forms," Mr Myers said. "The industry is getting its head around that and trying to navigate through the investment and planning hurdles to bring some of these to life."

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