Residential Care: is it affordable?

Residential care facilities offer permanent accommodation to seniors who are no longer able to live at home as they require around-the-clock care. Over the past decade the Australian Government has put pressure on aged care providers to increase the number of residential care facilities in Australia, and to ensure that these facilities meet the needs of our elderly population. Although high-end care is now available in most metropolitan, and some regional areas in Australia, these facilities usually come with a high daily fee along with other costs that are unaffordable to most pensioners.

If one is unable to afford the daily costs for residential care you can apply for Financial Hardship Assistance, which if approved, means that the Government will cover part or all of your aged care costs. Which is fantastic, if you are eligible for this assistance. To be eligible one must undergo an Aged Care fees income Assessment and must not have assets valued at more than $35 396.40 (since 20 March 2018)[1], meaning that the Financial Hardship Assistance is targeted at the lower socio-economic demographic in Australia.

Cost is a great obstacle when it comes to aged care, as government funding is limited, and the majority of seniors supported by pensions are unable to afford the type of care they require. Architects, like HSPC Health Architects, are employed to discover ways to build aged care facilities as efficiently as possible, so as to reduce the daily fees for residents. Essentially, the more expensive a facility is to build, including the cost of the land, the running costs and the materials used, all impact the overall cost of the facility – so finding a balance between top quality care and an affordable price is a task that Architects are faced with.

“Funding models are becoming ever more challenging and require the facility design to be craftier to be recurrently efficient, contemporary and tailor-made environments that are responsive to the varying needs for care and support of residents.”[2]

Reducing the cost of running these facilities is a strategy that is being implemented across the country, which in theory, should reduce the cost of daily fees for residents.[3]  SHH Architecture and Interiors is a Perth based practice who focus on the basic elements of passive sustainable design to reduce running costs. Insulation, materiality, natural ventilation and harnessing natural light and renewable energy are some of the key elements considered to reduce consumption costs.[4]

Taking full advantage of the size of a site is another strategy used to reduce cost, as HSPC Health Architects state that; “the traditional single storey rambling aged care facility on vast tracts of land are now the exception and the urban, multistorey environ is becoming the norm.”[5] Maximising the number of beds per m2 is achievable through building multiple storeys facilities.

Australian Unity is an organisation that is aiming to help bridge the gap in the aged care market by reducing the cost of building aged care facilities, so that lower fees can be charged to customers. The Carlton Wellbeing Precinct Project in Melbourne is an example of a project, supported by Australian United, which has a significantly lower build cost to most facilities. The project engineer, James Hargreaves, stated in an Article published on the Meinhardt Group website, that;

 “Early on we worked with the architect to eliminate costly transfer structures and create a flat plate situation for the slab, thus reducing formwork and manual labour costs. As the most expensive part of a building is labour, having thicker slabs and higher material quantities but a simple build is more cost effective.”[6]

This seems to be the latest model for aged care facilities that are emerging around Australia, as the Government has tasked Aged Care Providers and Architects, to find a solution to the issues that arise with our aging population, to provide affordable and sufficient aged care to all senior citizens.


Figure Two: Carlton Well being Precinct Nursing Home street view.

Figure Three: Carlton Well being Precinct Nursing Home communal garden.

Images: Jackson Architecture. n.d. Living Carlton Housing Redevelopment. Accessed March.


[1] Financial hardship assistance (March 2018),  accessed March 30, 2018,

[2] HSPC Architects, Aged Care: Comfort, Compassion, Thoughtfulness in Design , accessed March 1, 2018,

[3] SPH Architecture and Interiors, Sustrainable design + aged care (2017), accessed April 3, 2018,

[4] Ibid,.

[5] HSPC Architects, Aged Care: Comfort, Compassion, Thoughtfulness in Design , accessed March 1, 2018,

[6] Meinhardt Group, The Changing Face of Aged Care: Multi-Level, Urban Development, (November 2013), accessed April 2, 2018,