The building blocks to create a home

Posted on Tuesday, September 28, 2021

When Adam Roebuck was researching the design of Brightwater’s new aged care development in Inglewood, one thing was made very clear to him: he had to get the kitchens right.

“Everyone I spoke to said, Adam, we want the staff to be able to make pancakes and muffins for the residents if they feel like it. Or if the family comes in, they can sit at the kitchen table and have a cup of tea together” Adam Roebuck, Project Director

It may seem surprising that in a multi-million dollar project, the design of the kitchen carries such weight. Yet this is exactly what the Royal Commission into Aged Care noted in its investigation into innovative models of care, reporting that there were benefits in providing small scale care in a more familiar setting.

“Person-centred care that maximises the independence of the residents and participation in routine, domestic activities in a homelike setting for smaller groups of residents.” An excerpt from the Royal Commission Report: Review of Innovative Models of Aged Care, page 42

Person-centred design is at the core of Brightwater’s three storey Inglewood centre, currently under construction. Once complete, it will be home to 128 aged care clients, living in one of the 16-person small-house communities within the building. They will have their own team of care-givers, and greater opportunity for the sort of everyday routines that clients would have followed in their own homes.

The building will also house Brightwater’s corporate head office and a world-class research facility. There will be sensory landscaping and a ‘garden in the sky’ for residents, as well as physiotherapy services, gym and clinical hub.

“Combining a corporate office with an aged care home is a first for a WA provider. The design features shared community engagement spaces, for staff, clients, family and visitors to interact and socialise, and is an inclusive space for all abilities. It firmly puts our clients at the heart of everything we do.” Jennifer Lawrence, CEO - Brightwater Care Group

Getting the design just right took Project Director Adam Roebuck many months of research, travelling extensively in Western Australia and interstate. He says other not for profit aged care providers were generous and collaborative.

“I pinch myself every day that I get to lead large teams and significant organisations into what a sustainable future of aged care, clinical care, and care for humans can be.” Adam Roebuck, Project Director

Among the team tasked with translating this vision is interior designer Katelyn Mewburn from MKDC, who says one of the priorities in shaping the internal and external spaces of the Inglewood development was to improve the experience for family members and other visitors. 

“Giving residents beautiful spaces, opportunities to walk in the garden with their family member or make a cup of tea and sit somewhere intimate and engaging for a quiet conversation is so important.” Katelyn Mewburn, Interior Designer - MKDC

Katelyn is enthusiastic about the proximity of the new building to the Inglewood triangle, a small but significant pocket of bushland that’s home to much of the area’s natural flora and fauna. This natural bushland will inspire the interior design of the new building, including ensuring there are plenty of ways to look out onto the treetops from the upper floor.

“It’s for people who don’t have much mobility so they are still able to engage with the outdoors, looking onto landscape and feeling like they’re a part of something bigger.” Katelyn Mewburn, Interior Designer - MKDC

The person-centred approach is not confined to Brightwater’s aged care homes. It is a key component in disability care as well. Adam Roebuck is managing one of Brightwater’s next projects - to expand the rehabilitation services provided through the Oats Street facility in East Victoria Park.

The first step towards expansion has been progressed, with the purchase of three properties adjoining the site. This will see more clients able to receive services at different stages of their rehabilitation. Adam says the challenge of incorporating person-centred design is in trying to create something that’s all about the person while still ensuring it has the appropriate layers of clinical care and mental health care, including the care and good mental health of staff.

“Look around your own home - my job is to replicate that in a safe, managed, clinical environment. In a nutshell, it has to be homelike.” Adam Roebuck, Project Director

Adam and Katelyn have also been involved in Brightwater’s Light Touch Refurbishment project, which has spanned three years. The goal has been to update all the aged care and disability facilities in a way that, once more, puts client needs front and centre.

“Light plays such a big part in enabling independence. On one of our first sites, there was a client who was having trouble reading his newspaper at the dining table. After the refurbishment he was pleased to let us know that he could now read the paper. Brightwater is definitely far ahead of other providers in terms of taking responsibility for having an impact environmentally on their clients and I think they should be so proud of that.” Katelyn Mewburn, Interior Designer - MKDC

In addition, the External Areas Project has seen upgrades to the outdoors at the residential homes. The focus is on improving the experience on arrival at each home, as well as improving access to outdoor spaces and increased enjoyment once out there. For the clients in supported independent living homes, this means a focus on veggie gardens.

“The residents love the ability to garden, to get outside and make a difference, having something to own and throw themselves into is something they really value.” Katelyn Mewburn, Interior Designer - MKDC

Whether it’s digging up veggie gardens, sitting at the kitchen table to read the newspaper, or just gazing out at the treetops over Inglewood, Brightwater residents - today and in the future - can be assured that their experience remains at the centre of Brightwater’s vision. For Adam Roebuck, doing his best work means imagining what it would be like if he were the person living there.

“I put me at the centre of living in this facility because unless you know what it’s like to be in aged care, you have no idea of some of the challenges staff have or the challenges residents have. Being in and out of hundreds of aged care facilities for the last ten years, I have to put me at the centre of it so when I’m heading into my later days I think - will this be familiar to me?”