Australians aged 65 years and above comprise 15 percent of the total population in the country. With a significant number of people qualifying as ‘seniors’, there is increasing focus on this segment of the population, particularly their wellbeing, state of mind and independence.

A recent study titled the Australian Loneliness Report, compiled by the Australian Psychological Society and Swinburne University of Technology in 2018, turned the spotlight on the growing ‘loneliness epidemic’ amongst the elderly in the country.

According to the study, one in four Australians feels lonely – experts are already warning that loneliness and social isolation have the potential to be the country’s next public health crisis.

However, new innovations in building design are enabling seniors to relocate within retirement communities and helping tackle the ‘loneliness epidemic’.

Brisbane’s award-winning Aveo Newstead is an example of a retirement community that has incorporated intelligent design features to help seniors maintain long-term social connections by allowing them to ‘age in place’. Aveo Newstead, which recently won the Design Excellence category at the 2018 National Retirement Living Awards, was designed by DBI Design architects.

DBI associate director Nicholas Symonds says, “When we first sat down to discuss our vision for Brisbane’s first integrated retirement community, we talked about wanting to deliver a project that would provide seniors with the opportunity to remain independent for as long as possible.

“As people age, their needs change and sadly that often means being forced to change addresses to access the services, support and style of accommodation best suited for their situation.

“Such a move can be a devastating blow in terms of losing social connections and that’s why the ability to age in place through innovative building design is more crucial than ever.”

‘Ageing in place’ refers to the ability of an older person to live in their residence of choice for as long as possible.

For Aveo Newstead residents, DBI Design enables ageing in place through a variety of techniques including providing a range of accommodation options to allow seniors the flexibility to move from independent living to residential aged care within the same building.

This essentially means that they could transition within the same community as care levels or circumstances change, helping residents retain important connections and support networks.

Additionally, simple design considerations in independent living apartments help provide older Australians with the flexibility, comfort and safety they need. These include wider-than-standard galleys for ease of access and turning circles for mobility devices, raised appliances, swipe card entry, larger-than-normal light switches and increased door widths.

The retirement complex’s ‘one-community approach’ also features premium lifestyle facilities such as a gym, day spa, library, private movie theatre, restaurant and bar, business centre and beauty salon.  A wellness suite with a GP and allied health services also provides residents and their families with additional peace of mind.

“More than 180,000 people already live in more than 2300 retirement villages across the country and it’s reassuring for older Australians to know that innovative people are working hard to ensure their latter years are lived in a place they want to call home,” concluded Symonds.