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    Children of baby boomers will force changes to aged care standards, says architect Robert Caulfield

    Geraldine Chua

    The children of cashed up baby boomers will be an influential force in the reform and upgrading of aged care resources, says director of Caulfield Krivanek Architecture, Robert Caulfield.

    This is especially so with the nation’s rapidly ageing population, a large portion of which have substantial financial and electoral power, meaning both facility operators and political parties should be taking note of their demands.

    The proportion of Australians aged over 65 years has grown from eight per cent in 1970-71, to 13 per cent in 2001-02. The Inter-Generational Report projects a doubling of this figure to around 25 per cent over the next 40 years.

    According to an Australian Institute of Health and Welfare research report on Aged Care, there were approximately 169,000 people living in residential aged care at 30 June 2011, nearly all on a permanent basis. Almost three-quarters were aged 80 and over, and 57 per cent were aged 85 and over.

    “The major issue for many children is that with many older aged care facilities still having multi-bed bedrooms, they don’t want their parents sleeping in a strangers’ bedroom and families will increasingly look for aged care facilities with single private rooms,” explains Caulfield.

    He adds that the building design of these facilities will become more important as it plays a major role in the outlook of older people and especially those with depression. Rooms with access to open space, and which are large enough for people to be able to have some of their personal effects around them, will be key factors influencing the decisions of aged care residents and their families. Not every room requires blank white walls.

    "There is also a need in aged care to accommodate couples with super rooms, which would be designed to have room for a double bed or twin single beds, a kitchenette, sitting area, private bathroom facilities and access to an outside garden,” says Caulfield.

    "This is aimed at designing out that heart break situation when a couple who lived their life together are suddenly separated by illness, allowing them to have some quality of life together, whether it be permanent dual accommodation or occasional sleepovers by the non-resident partner.

    "This approach also provides families with flexibility and an opportunity to help their parents stay together at a crucial time, and can overcome the fear of an elderly resident feeling they will become isolated from their family and their life-long partner. It also gives operators the opportunity of expanding their market and achieving higher bonds.”

    Already some aged care facility operators are recognising the losing appeal of shared room facilities, and are renovating and upgrading their facilities to provide more private rooms with separate bathrooms.

    “With the Australian population ageing quickly, the issue of improving the standard of aged care accommodation with a national aim for single rooms and super rooms for couples, or young people being placed in nursing homes, should be on the political agenda of all parties at the State and Federal level,” says Caulfield.

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