A crucial element in providing appropriate and optimal aged care is the flexibility available within housing and care options. The customisability within every option is critical for an enabling environment that encourages the best quality of life for residents. Vertical villages have unique advantages that can help provide this and are an unexpected contender in the best model for retirement living and aged care.
One of the most advantageous features of vertical villages are the opportunities afforded by the feasibility of having numerous services & living options within close proximity. Building up rather than out means that more residents can live in a serviceable area allowing more businesses & services to operate closer to a greater number of residents, whether in the same building or close by. With businesses operating closer to residents and to higher numbers of residents, comes the benefits both of a greater likelihood of resident needs being met, and an economy of scale meaning that the service delivery will be more cost effective.
In a single apartment building it is possible to have a mix of retirement living, aged care, and standard residential living options, along with a mix of commercial or community uses. Essentially, the buildings could function for a mixed-age demographic, but come with extra support options for those who need it. It is an option for those whose lives would benefit from some extra help without feeling that they have to make a drastic lifestyle change and move into a facility. As they age within the apartment building, residents can increase the level of service required, for instance accessing varying degrees of cleaning, catering, medical check-ups, physiotherapy, personal grooming, entertainment, and shopping services, all potentially within the same apartment complex. The availability of different care level services in the same building enables a seamless transition to higher care when needed. This can all occur while sharing common spaces with people of different age groups and interacting with the public within retail amenities & service providers in the building. This interaction discourages negative feelings of ageing and isolation. We have seen for instance, cases around the world that show the benefits of mixing aged care and child care, which is an example of something that could be explored with a day care tenancy in the apartment building.
A residential model such as the vertical village can also increase resident safety and independence. There is a reticence from many older people to leave their home for somewhere where they can receive higher levels of care when they need it. This is often due to a justified aversion to leaving their familiar environment, community and independence, and the common negative perception that they will be put away in an aged care facility and forgotten. This means that often older people are living in their home longer than they should, which poses a personal safety issue. If residents live in a vertical village, as they need greater care they do not have to leave their community so are more likely to access the services they need. This ensures they receive the appropriate level of care, are looked after, and can actually remain more independent in their community as they are supported by the various services available.
Regardless of the above, it would be naïve to think that all residents would feel that living in a vertical village would suit them. However the more vertical villages available as options for those who would enjoy that lifestyle, the more places are freed up in traditional retirement living and aged care facilities.
While some may not be convinced about these ‘vertical villages’, they appear to provide a unique opportunity to develop an enabling, rich, supportive environment to alleviate our challenge of housing our ageing population. Operators would do well to investigate the possibilities rather than disregard the unfamiliar.