Design for Opportunity

Image credit: Carole Margand


‘Design for Opportunity’ – 10 key principles that guide the design of our cities and regions to achieve a more sustainable and inclusive future for our older population, has been released at the Australia-China Hospital & Aged Care Facility Design Cooperation forum.  Hosted by Austrade and Beijing Zhuyitai Technology, the international forum connected over 1000 attendees with presenters from Thomson Adsett, BAU Brearley Architects + Urbanists, Woods Bagot, EPD, Place Design Group, and CAME.

Penny Spiers, Design Principal at Place Design Group, presented the principles and joined the international panel to discuss arising hospital trends in China, integration of robotic technology in aged care, and design concepts being utilised in residential communities to allow adaptation for our aging population.

With an inherent passion to improve the function and design for health and aged care facilities across Australia, Mrs Spiers has extensive experience designing landscapes that positively impact the sense of loneliness and social isolation that is often felt by many residents who live in aged care communities.

Through partnerships, in-depth research and years of working alongside aging communities, Mrs Spiers and her team at Place Design Group developed these 10 principles of design thinking.  In a year of change where COVID had such an immense impact, the need to embrace these principles has never been more important than before.

“2020 has brought about some marked changes in the way people feel about their own health and wellbeing.  No longer is the challenge of isolation that face many of our aging communities ‘out of sight, and therefore out of mind’ by decision makers.  There is a greater awareness for the challenges our senior communities face, and the design needs they have.  Now is the time to capture this and engage with government, policy makers and industry to develop strong allies for greater design outcomes, to not only reduce health expenditures and our development economic impact, but also achieve an overall better quality of life for our communities”, says Mrs Spiers.

The 10 principles encapsulate consideration of areas such as activity and wellness, choice, social and intergenerational interaction, technology innovation, and aging in place. Transferable across a multitude of private or public open space, these principles champion design led responses that look to help tackle many of the challenges facing our aging communities.

Austrade Commercial Consul and Greater China International Health Team Leader, Tim White said, “Australian designers are at the forefront of design development for our aging communities.  Today, 17% of China’s population is aged over 60 and that proportion is expected to rise to 30% by 2040.  With this significant change comes the need to look to how we can work together to create a more sustainable future.  We look forward to working with counterparts in China to deliver strong health and wellbeing outcomes for our elderly populations”.

Mrs Spiers says, “we have an opportunity to create more inclusive, resilient and integrated communities for all ages.  With our innate human need for social interaction and connectedness, alongside access to outdoor green space in overdrive due to COVID, now is the time to act. We need to use this global opportunity to start transforming our future, and design for opportunity”.