Dementia Centred

September 12th, 2018

International collaboration: when it’s good, it’s very, very good

It is not every day an Australian aged care business has the chance to collaborate internationally, but there is a lot to be gained.

True innovation often requires active collaboration with wisely, and widely, chosen partners. South Australian­ based aged and community care provider Life Care took this principle to the extreme when designing Gaynes Park Manor, its new residential living community in Joslin, South Australia.

Scouring the globe for inspiration, a visit to the United Kingdom (UK) yielded not only the inspiration for a new model of care, but also a partnership with the Dementia Services Development Centre (DSDC), part of UK- based University of Stirling. The effectiveness of the DSDC partnership-augmented by another with international architectural firm Marchese Partners-has gained international accolades. Gaynes Park Manor won the 2018 Eldercare Innovation Award for Best Silver Architecture in Construction, presented in Singapore in April 2018.

For Life Care's Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Allen Candy, the motivation for this worldwide search came from personal experience. "I visited my grandparents at Gaynes' predecessor Roselin Court as a teenager. Imagine my surprise when I returned as Life Care CEO 30 years later to find that many aspects of Roselin Court hadn't changed," he said. "It was a challenging experience. I felt an obligation to create a new environment that anyone would enjoy living in and where people could feel engaged and live a meaningful life.

"At the time, we already believed in the value of smaller, home-like environments, but we felt we should aim for something even more significant with this new home," Allen said. In the UK, he was inspired by a new approach that grouped residents into the 'mini-communities'.

Discussing this new approach with DSDC, it was clear that collaboration could bring a new level of dementia design excellence. The partnership looked at every aspect of the design, from the size of each mini-community and the distinctive use of objects, colour, texture and finishes for orientation, to enhancing visual access and control of stimuli, lighting and technology. The aim was to provide the best possible space for people living with dementia and other cognitive impairments.

While the new model of care seen in the UK inspired Gaynes Park Manor's unique layout, partnering with Marchese Partners elevated the project. As with all good architecture, Gaynes Park Manor focuses on the differing needs and desires of its residents. Each of the site's six 'mini communities' has 16 rooms radiating directly off an open plan communal area including a kitchen, dining space and lounge. Residents can choose complete privacy by closing the door to their en-suite room or, with it open, can feel  closer to the 'goings on' around them. No one is isolated at the end of a long corridor. Various nooks offer gathering space for small groups, or an individual can sit and enjoy a good book. This sense of being part of the community while still having a choice of multiple levels of privacy reduces loneliness and boredom. Residents are encouraged to maintain their familiar daily rhythms, to take on various community responsibilities, and be part of meaningful social engagement activities.

Technology facilitates this sense of freedom. Clinical looking call bells have been replaced by the southern hemisphere's first genuinely mobile call system. Each resident receives a wearable device which provides a feeling of security; wherever a resident is in Gaynes Park Manor, they can notify staff that they need support simply by pressing a button on their device. Staff are able see the resident's exact position on a smartphone. As a result, call volumes increase while response times have decreased.

Ultimately, such a building can be incredible in theory yet fall short. When it comes to Gaynes Park Manor, the proof is in the pudding. Residents often comment on how special they feel living in this beautiful space and families spend longer with their loved ones.

For more information visit

Images and text courtesy of Life Care.

For more information on the DSDC Design Services, please visit the design pages. Frank Ehrenberg from Marchese Partners International will be speaking at this year’s International Masterclass in May 2019.

Categories: Dementia Design