The conference represents a unique opportunity for emerging researchers in ageing to share their research in a national forum which focuses on the work of higher degree research students undertaking research in ageing, from across multiple disciplines.
Nikki is undertaking her PhD at Deakin University, School of Architecture and the Built Environment, and co-supervision from the National Ageing Research Institute, researching the intersection between people, place, and purpose – as we age – and how these critical relationships impact the lived experiences and social fabric of residents in later living care communities.
While there is interest in understanding the role of architecture in aged care facilities, the focus to date has been either: (i) on the facility’s amenities and features, look and feel or overall aesthetics; (ii) on the performance of the building itself, in terms of environmental, clinical, or functional criteria; or (iii) on a singular component of experiencing life in residential aged care – creating a sense of home, material culture, social isolation, or dignity – in which the architecture plays a secondary and often static backdrop to life being lived. Seldom is the focus from a socio-spatial perspective. Critically examining how residents feel towards the architecture of the environment and community they call home, and how these spaces are designed for continuity of purpose, engagement, contribution, and connection of residents with each other, to family and friends, to community, and to nature.
This paper uses the lens of Doreen Massey’s spatial theory (Massey, 2004) to develop unique socio-spatial criteria – to critically examine the design, organisation and quality of spaces within residential aged care facilities – and to fundamentally ask what might be possible if we dared to apply a social value index to how we design spaces for older persons. This question sits within a broader research project examining the role of architecture in the lives and experiences of aged care residents, by exploring the relationships between people, place and purpose in residential aged care facilities. The larger scope of methodologies in this research combines quantitative data of resident movements, visual material, and qualitative data about resident wellbeing and sense of place. This paper rethinks the role of architectural space and design in the design of aged care facilities – shifting from a functional and operational position – to one which prioritises, promotes, and enables the wellbeing of residents; and offers a paradigm shift in thinking about the central role of space in aged care facilities.