Our paper calls for changes in how we design, build & manage aged-care facilities. A vision for biophilic cities must consider population ageing & the importance of designing biophilic aged-care facilities.

For the attention of: Aged-care architects, planners & designers; Aged-care developers; Aged-care providers consumers; Aged-care health professionals and policymakers.

The problem: Despite significant change in how long-term aged care is delivered, moving away from a formal medical model of care, and towards person-centred, consumer-directed care that recognises and supports residents’ autonomy, the dominant cultural narrative about aged care remains predominantly negative. Stigma surrounds any decision to move to aged care: older people are afraid of ‘ending up there’; families feel guilty for considering aged care as an option; and many healthcare professionals view aged care negatively.

What we did and why: Emphasising the value of connections with nature and living systems, we have positioned biophilic design as the key conceptual frame, to transform stereotypical aged care environments into calming, restorative, and aesthetically pleasing places. Drawing on Browning, Ryan and Clancy’s ’14 Patterns of Biophilic Design’ framework as a guide, we completed an architectural assessment of three award-winning aged care facilities in Australia, which illustrate that biophilic design principles are, in fact, guiding contemporary best practice.

What our study adds: While innovations in information and communication technology means many more people will age in place in their own homes, for the foreseeable future, residential aged care facilities will remain an important part of the care system for the frail and aged. Population ageing means more aged care facilities will be designed, built and managed, with this paper arguing for a new biophilic vision—an approach which would benefit residents, staff, visitors, and local neighbourhood communities.

Implications for city policy and practice: As biophilic design discourse and practice remains rare in aged care, our hope is that this paper triggers a reflective conversation between architects, developers, policymakers, consumers, and care providers about the value and potential of a biophilic approach. Just as aged care providers are now increasingly seeking to engage with new technologies and to understand sustainable design approaches, awareness, consideration, and integration of biophilic design principles into aged care facilities must become a mainstream approach.

Full research article:  Redesigning aged care with a biophilic lens: a call to action by Evonne Miller & Lindy Osborne Burton. City Know-how editor: Marcus Grant.