New Age Approach. World-first Microtown™ for Elderly
An aged care group is claiming a world-first approach with a new “microtown” for elderly residents in Queensland. The NewDirection community at Bellmere, north of Brisbane, aims to replace the typical institutional design of aged and nursing care facilities with a village of homes where residents share more like housemates, supported by staff as needed. “In a traditional setting, people are all under one roof. Residents are woken at a certain time and required to go to a communal dining room or large lounge room,” founder Natasha Chadwick said.“Here, people live much more like they do in their own homes.
“The residents of each house develop the menus, based on individual preferences and needs, and are involved in cooking if they are able.
“Meal times are set by themselves. They decide when they get up and go to bed.”
Residents have access to a shop, hair and beauty salon, barbershop and cinema as well as a cafe which is also open to the public.
A wellness centre and spa offers massage and GP and dental clinics.
The ‘microtown’ boasts facilities ‘like any other small town’. Picture: Jamie Hanson “It’s essentially like any other small town,” Ms Chadwick said, with streets of houses and a retail precinct.
Relatives are encouraged to share meals with loved ones in their homes or hang out at the cafe, outdoor picnic areas or other parts of the two-hectare grounds.
Each of the 17 homes, with front and back yards, will have seven residents, with double and queen rooms available for couples.
The houses and fellow residents are chosen based on lifestyle surveys which look at base values, characteristics and tastes.
Residents are aged from 50 to 101 and have a range of complex care needs including dementia and early-onset dementia. They are not placed according to diagnosis. “Someone living with dementia is living next to someone who is cognitively aware,” Ms Chadwick said. “People support each other as a community. They are living well together.”
The residents are supported by specially-trained “house companion” staff who help out with cleaning, cooking, personal care and medication. There is also a team of professionals including registered nurses and allied health staff. Ms Chadwick says the benefits of the fresh approach are already becoming apparent six months in.
“People who would have been identified as aggressive, those behaviours are totally changing. We are seeing a reduction in medications and an increase in weight.” She said the refundable accommodation deposit — from $450,000 to $550,000 depending on the room — and daily fees were comparable with other facilities. NewDirection is now planning to adapt the “microtown” approach to an apartment-style complex in Brisbane or the Sunshine Coast and are developing a licensed model for use by other providers.