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Designing Aged Care

How do you make an aged care facility feel like a home? Interior designer Brooke Proctor, from PDT Architects, shares her secrets.

Ms Proctor, who designed the interior of TriCare’s state-of-the-art, purpose-built extension to TriCare Stafford Lakes Aged Care Residence, says her focus is firmly on the residents when she designs an aged care facility.

“We need to understand who we are designing for,” she says. “The focus is always on residents and designing for them so that at the end of the day we’re providing quality and comfortable environments for not only them but also their friends, family and grandchildren.

“Then, of course, there are the staff we need to consider, and ensure our design makes it an easy and efficient environment for them to provide care.

Ms Proctor says every inch of the Stafford Lakes extension has been designed with the elderly in mind.

“From the beginning we set out to design something that was overall very welcoming and homely,” she says. “Some of the key features that support those ideas are the framed vistas out onto the surrounding vegetation. We tried to realise this in every opportunity by creating pleasant seating nooks against all glazing really highlighting those outlooks. This, in turn, provided the residents with a relaxing retreat for them to enjoy either alone or with family and friends.

“Within the interior, we really set out to create intimate spaces within the larger settings that help to foster a sense of community. It was about providing residents with a comfortable sense of scale whilst maintaining the grandeur elements of double height ceilings and the like.

“Accessibility for residents was key when designing Stafford and we made sure, where we could, to be generous with circulation space to entry ways, corridors, resident rooms and ensuites to ensure there were no tight corners or obstructed paths, which can be problematic in an aged care setting.”

Of course, there’s an art to making an Aged Care residence feel like a home, and not a hospital.

“Firstly, it’s about trying to create settings that are common in a residential environment,” Ms Proctor says. “For example, intimate lounge settings, fire places (yes, even in Queensland), and accessible facilities for all the residents including tea stations, dining rooms and even cinema rooms all contribute to that sense of home and freedom to live as they wish to.

“The material palette also has a large effect on the overall look and feel of a space. Particularly in the resident rooms, we try to provide a variety of spaces and joinery configurations to allow residents to display their personal belongings to make it their own space.”

Throughout the Stafford Lakes extension, bright and colourful artwork helps to bring the facility to life. Each of those artworks were carefully chosen.

“The artwork needs to reflect the overall concept of the design,” Ms Proctor says. “For instance, Stafford is quite a modern design, both architecturally and internally. Therefore, the artwork had to reflect that modern taste and not be too dated in style. I took into consideration all the fabric selections and surrounding materials and tied that in with the colours in the artwork, so at the end of the day, everything sat together cohesively and looked purposeful.”

Pressed to pick one design element of the Stafford Lakes extension as her favourite, Ms Proctor points to the main entry lobby, which transitions seamlessly from the external to the internal.

“We took inspiration from the surrounding lake, and also worked with the architecture which celebrates simplicity and sophistication in form,” she says. “As a result, this area uses a combination of natural and man-made materials that work together to form a striking entrance statement.”

Ultimately, Ms Proctor says the comfort her designs give elderly residents is what makes her work fulfilling.

“At the end of the day I enjoy being able to provide an aesthetically pleasing, safe and engaging place for older people requiring aged care support to continue to live the life they have been used to, and to feel respected, valued and fulfilled.”