Public sector residential aged care 18 May 2023

Living well in public residential aged care

Public sector residential aged care facilities play an important role in supporting access to care and services for vulnerable Victorians who:

  • have complex support needs
  • are experiencing socioeconomic disadvantage
  • live where there are no other alternatives.

These services aim to promote resident independence, choice and dignity to support their health, wellbeing and quality of life.

By focusing on the needs of residents in public aged care, we can create a supportive environment that enhances wellness and promotes independence.

We’re building and upgrading public sector residential aged care services across Victoria, using supportive design and resident insights to improve wellbeing.

Sally Delany, Manager Design Services at the Victorian Health Building Authority (VHBA), explains the thinking behind design choices.

‘We can use colours and shapes to encourage natural movements throughout the building and into outdoor areas. If it is simple and intuitive to get around, residents are more independent – avoiding confusion and anxiety.’

Sally Delany, Manager Design Services, VHBA

Sally says that designing with different needs in mind benefits all residents.

‘It is well documented that connection to nature in built form enhances the environment and our experience of wellness. This is an important consideration for all staff, visitors and particularly residents.

‘By applying principles that support residents with dementia, for example avoiding busy patterns that can cause confusion, can help residents with a range of needs. It also allows for residents to stay in the same room even if their needs change over time.’

A calming environment is not just good for residents, it’s good for everyone. Sally has visited facilities after they’ve opened to see how the design is working in practice.

Speaking to residents, staff and visitors at some of our residential facilities we have recently built and upgraded, supportive features include:

  • choosing which spaces they want to be in, and level of involvement with others
  • personalising and being in control of their own environment.

‘Residents can adjust heating and lighting. They can choose to pop outside or to the kitchen to make a cup of tea. These are the activities of daily living that you may do in your own home.

‘It is important people have that autonomy and feel safe in a space that feels like home,’ adds Sally.

Murrenda (the $81.58 million new Wantirna residential aged care facility) supports care for a range of complex needs including mobility and dementia. Memory boxes with personal items at the entrance of each room add a homelike and comforting touch.

Creating a homelike environment

Our person-centred design approach ensures our facilities create a homelike environment providing choice and independence alongside familiarity and comfort.

This supports residents to have ongoing meaningful engagement in life in a place where they feel comfortable.

Richard Blight is a Director at Blight, Blight & Blight – the architecture firm who designed the $3.2 million dementia-friendly unit at Creswick Nursing Home. Richard explains how their team engages with residents as part of the design process.

‘We run art therapy programs which are a way of workshopping with residents to figure out what they think home is. We run these workshops with a sheet of paper that has a drawing of a house on it – and we ask them through the process of collage to stick pictures down of what they think home means to them.’

Richard Blight, Director Blight, Blight & Blight

When building or refurbishing a public residential aged care facility, we implement design strategies to create a homelike environment, including:

  • floorplans modelled on a small household
  • private bedrooms with ensuites that can be personalised
  • easy access to outdoor areas
  • a diverse range of common areas.

Small household model

Berengarra, the $55.57 million St George’s Hospital aged care facility, provides 90 beds. It is made up of two separate three-storey houses, with pitched roofs and brickwork to create a more homelike feel.

Each floor is divided into small households, creating a familiar environment that is easier to navigate. Key facilities, such as dining and lounge areas, are close by – also assisting those who cannot travel long distances.

Private bedrooms

Individual bedrooms and bathrooms provide dignity and independence to residents. The $6.3 million redevelopment of Kowree Nursing Home at Edenhope and District Memorial Hospital redevelopment included the construction of 18 private rooms with ensuites. This replaced the existing shared rooms, providing more privacy for residents.

Easy access to outdoor areas

In the dementia-friendly unit at Creswick Nursing Home, rooms are clustered around a central courtyard. This allows residents to circulate freely and safely. Two outdoor seating areas encourage residents to spend time outdoors, while raised wheelchair-accessible garden beds allow residents to garden.

The outdoor space provides residents with choice. They can enjoy the outdoor space actively or with others, or spend time on their own. The courtyard design also means that outdoor areas are visible from indoors, which provides a sense of connection to the natural environment outside.

Diverse common areas

A diverse range of common areas facilitate choice and lifestyle options for residents. This also supports them to maintain family and community connections.

For example, Murrenda (Wantirna residential aged care facility) includes multipurpose common areas. It also has a community room, sacred space and café. This gives residents greater choice, with access to areas for socialising, activities, or quiet time alone.

Residents and staff say the new living environment has made a huge difference to their quality of life and capacity to engage with other residents at Murrenda.

Planning for the future

Victoria's population is ageing. In 2021 there were almost 1.5 million Victorians aged 60 years or older. This represents 22 per cent of the total population. By 2046 that number is expected to increase by around 60 per cent to more than 2.3 million people.

See how we are modernising public sector residential aged care facilities across Victoria.

The Aged Care Royal Commission Final Report calls for a new system that places people at the centre of aged care.

The inquiry identified common themes the community expect from Australia’s aged care system, including dignity and respect, control and choice, the importance of relationships and connections to communities, and the desire for quality of life.

The investment and design of Victoria’s new and upgraded public sector residential aged care responds to these themes, using evidence-based design.

Metropolitan Melbourne

Berengarra (St George's Hospital aged care facility) and Murrenda (Wantirna residential aged care facility) were delivered through the Modernisation of Metropolitan Melbourne Public Sector Residential Aged Care Strategy.

The Kingston Centre residential aged care facility in Cheltenham is expected to be completed in 2025. It will make the most of the surrounding natural environment. Residents will have open area views, an abundance of natural light, and access to terraces and gardens.

Regional and Rural

Facilities in Rutherglen, Camperdown, Mansfield and Orbost are being delivered through the Regional and Rural Public Sector Residential Aged Care Services Revitalisation Strategy.

The Rutherglen aged care facility will house the relocated 40-bed Glenview Community Care Nursing Home. It will include an additional 10 beds in an environment that is dementia-friendly and supports a range of resident care needs.

Camperdown aged care facility is based on a ‘small household’ model and will support residents’ interaction with the community. It will offer outdoor spaces to promote physical and mental wellbeing.

The Victorian Government has also established the $10 million Rural Residential Aged Care Facilities Renewal Program. The program enables rural and regional residential aged care services across Victoria to invest in modern infrastructure and equipment.

We’re collaborating with the Department of Health’s Commissioning and System Improvement Branch to update to the public sector residential aged care (interim) facility design guidelines to respond to some of the recommendations from the Royal Commission. The updated guidelines will also be informed by our universal design policy and charter.

The guidelines provide an outline on how to deliver best practice residential aged care facilities, enabling contemporary and innovative models of care.

The Department of Health will also be updating its dementia-friendly environments guidance and resources in consultation with a broad cross-section of stakeholders, including people living with dementia.

‘This collaboration has been important in developing a whole design approach and investment strategy to enhance environments to enable people with dementia to continue living a life of meaning and value and maintain connections with loved ones in a familiar and supportive home. This approach also assists staff to deliver a person-centred model of care,’ said Valda Groves, Manager Public Sector Residential Aged Care Services, Planning and Infrastructure, Department of Health.

Get support

Find resources for ageing and aged care on the Department of Health website.

View all our public sector residential aged care projects.


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Last updated: 18 May 2023