Aged Care

Aged care transformation: New design principles to redefine residential living


Australia’s aged care sector is on the brink of a significant transformation, with the impending introduction of National Aged Care Design Principles and Guidelines.

The Design Principles and Guidelines, driven by consultations with older individuals, the aged care sector and design experts, is in direct response to Recommendation 45 of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety Final Report. Set to be implemented on 1 July 2024, these guidelines are poised to redefine the landscape of residential aged care accommodation.

Redefining the aged care environment

The heart of this transformation lies in the four core principles outlined in the draft Design Principles and Guidelines:

  • Enable the Person: Support people living in a place that maintains their health, wellbeing and a sense of identity.
  • Cultivate a Home: Create a familiar environment in which people have privacy, control and feel they belong.
  • Connect with Community: Support people seeing, accessing and spending time outdoors in contact with nature.
  • Access to Outdoors: Encourage people to connect with family, friends and community, continuing to participate in meaningful activities.

These principles, supported by practical guidelines and checklists, can be seamlessly integrated into minor refurbishments, major renovations and the construction of new aged care facilities.

Impact on older Australians

The Design Principles and Guidelines represent a significant step towards creating an accessible, dementia-friendly and homelike living environment for older Australians in residential aged care.

The guidelines take into account older people’s preferences, the advantages of small-home models, dementia-friendly design, accessibility, suitability for diverse populations, location, innovation and safety features, including infection prevention and control.

These changes aim to enhance the quality of life for residents, particularly those living with cognitive impairments or dementia.

For residential care providers and technical experts, the guidelines offer clear directions for capital works, whether it’s the revitalisation of existing facilities or the construction of new ones. By focusing on promoting independence, functionality and resident enjoyment, these guidelines aim to support the delivery of high-quality, safe, respectful and dignified care.

Navigating the road ahead

While the guidelines represent a significant leap forward, the critical challenge is securing funding and overseeing implementation.

Older Persons Advocacy Network CEO Craig Gear expects the Aged Care Task Force to address this concern ahead of its interim report in October.

“OPAN is calling for any new funding to be tied to the National Aged Care Accommodation Design Principles and Guidelines. We would also like to see these guidelines incorporated into the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission reporting framework through the new Star Ratings system to ensure they become standard practice,” Gear said.

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Ritchelle is a Content Producer for Healthcare Channel, Australia’s premier resource of information for healthcare.


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