The recently-released report from the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety has profound implications for the Australian building and construction industry.
Coming as it did in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the tragic infection outbreaks in more than 60 aged care facilities, public attention was focused even more so on the $20 billion aged care industry – specifically, its ability to manage the likelihood of future pandemics in light of the rapidly expanding proportion of the population requiring residential aged care.
The Royal Commission fallout
The Royal Commission report contains 148 recommendations with public and industry pressure mounting to have these addressed in the upcoming 2021 federal budget.
This follows the perceived inaction following more than 20 previous enquiries into the aged care sector during the past two decades.
Aged care building sector factors affecting likely changes
The Commission report addressed:-
- Care at home
- Residential living
- Specialist residential aged care needs
It also highlighted the need to improve access to aged healthcare in regional, rural and remote areas of the country and to be mindful and aware of the “special needs” of Australia’s diverse and multi-cultural population including those of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
Further concern was directed at the inherent infection risk – including pandemics like COVID-19 – and the management of these infections in large traditionally designed aged care facilities.
But the overwhelming consideration was how the sector would cope with skyrocketing demand for Aged Care beds from almost one-third of our 5.5 million babyboomers already past the retirement age of 65 and who were likely to be seeking aged care in their later lives.
The future look of aged care facilities
The future look of aged care facilities is already on show in a range of recently-built suburban developments. They reflect the demands of their comparatively wealthier, more sophisticated newly-aged residents.
They offer a more homely environment and residences offering designer, hotel-style in-room entertainment systems and furnishings; landscaped gardens and discrete courtyards; hairdressing salons; cafes and spas; in-house cinemas and restaurant-quality food served in smaller, more intimate dining rooms.
Clustered domestic residential models with smaller numbers of occupants located close to shopping centres or near natural environment features such as beaches and parklands are and will continue to replace the sprawling complexes where aged care workers were seemingly powerless to contain the COVID-19 outbreaks of 2020.
Future developments are also likely to have to meet the physical space requirements to comply with the expected heightened government standards for quality and safety.
In short, the future bodes well for the building and construction sector as it seeks to correct both long-standing flaws within the aged care industry and those more vividly exposed during the past twelve months.