Meet the Residents Living in an ‘aged care micro-town’


Meet the Residents Living in an ‘aged care micro-town’


After four years of operation, a pilot program has convincingly shown that capital and operational costs of delivering aged care into a community of houses are comparable to traditional aged care. So since September last year the first residents have started moving into what has been dubbed an “aged care micro-town”.
The town has 17 houses across the six streets. Each house is supported by a companion who doesn’t live on site but is on hand to provide assistance with cleaning, personal care, meal preparation, shopping and laundry.

As a general rule there are seven residents per house, with every resident having their own bedroom and ensuite, and full use of the communal lounge, dining, kitchen and backyard with a barbecue. Throughout the house are personal items – photos, ornaments, artwork: each resident’s own personal touch.

The town uses a lot of technology, including CCTV, sensors and mobile technology. While there is care on site 24/7, carers don’t do rounds; instead they use the technology to direct care as needed, where needed.

So instead of having an aged care facility with 120 people under one roof, and with dining areas big enough for 50 people, you have a community of houses just like any other, except that each house has seven bedrooms with seven en suites. Residents are living in a home, not an institution. Just like any home, meals are cooked in the kitchen: residents plan a house menu with the House Companion™ House Worker but are welcome to opt for a separate meal. Residents control the meal’s budget, so they can spend it on fish, red meat, fancy cheeses … and whatever they choose to drink with those meals. Laundry is done in the house laundry, and the wet clothes hung on the clothes line.

Unlike residential aged care, where people are typically grouped together based on their care needs, in this micro-town residents are grouped based on their lifestyle preferences and values. Residents are welcome to bring their pet cat, dog or bird, and a number of the houses have resident chickens.

Unlike traditional aged care, doors are not locked, except at night, meaning that just like living in any other place, people come and go as they please. While this may seem counter-intuitive for people who have a tendency to wander, the pilot’s results showed that many of the negative behaviours exhibited in locked-down aged care facilities are reduced, and the need for medications — including anti-psychotics — is minimised.

In the centre of the micro-town there is a shopping precinct with a hairdresser, cafe and beauty salon, a wellness area including a GP clinic that operates three days per week, a visiting dentist and a gymnasium, and an entertainment zone with a cinema and events/club area for activities. Down the road is the corner store, where residents or their companions can buy groceries and day-to-day essentials.

So what does it cost? Surprisingly, the financial arrangements are the same as living in an aged care facility.

There is a refundable accommodation deposit of up to $550,000 or equivalent daily accommodation payment of up to $87 a day.

A basic daily fee of $50 a day (set as 85 per cent of the age pension) covers the basics of utilities, insurance, House Companion™ Support Workers and a range of activities.

There is a menu of additional services, which residents can buy as they need or as a package (which is more affordable if you are going to use them regularly).

There is also a means-tested care fee, which is calculated based on the resident’s assets and income, and used to offset the funding that is provided by government.

The model itself is almost like a franchise – so while this micro-town currently exists only on the Sunshine Coast, keep your eyes peeled for an aged care micro-town near you soon.

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