In South Australia’s Adelaide Hills, plans are underway to build a new, state-of-the-art aged care facility that blends the latest in dementia-care research with community-centred design.

Clayton Church Homes has unveiled plans for a 60-bed home, Summerhill, to be located on a hilltop site in the town of Uraidla.

CHS is a not-for-profit provider aligned with the Uniting Church. It delivers aged care services in the Adelaide Hills, with two residential aged care facilities and six retirement villages. It’s very much integrated in the Adelaide Hills community, chief executive officer, Nino DiSisto told HelloCare.

Communal gardens. Supplied.

Communal gardens. Supplied.

“People in country communities, particularly in the Adelaide Hills, love to have their services locally. So we endeavour to provide those services,” he said.

Summerhill currently only has 25 beds. Over the years, the building has served as a hospital, medical clinic, and now an aged care facility. Though it has been refurbished, the building is no longer fit for purpose, says Mr DiSisto.

“With changing expectations and the residents coming in much more dependent, you need a facility that can accommodate those requirements,” he said.

After securing an additional 35 bed licences from the Commonwealth in 2019, CCH embarked on the development planning.

Designing the home has been a “long journey”, Mr DiSisto said.

Design based on the latest research

CCH employed the services of researchers from the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute to study international best practice. They wanted to ensure the new home has a world-leading approach to dementia care.

“We looked at what is the best approach to providing aged care services in a home-like environment, underpinned by what the residents want and what the community needs,” said Mr DiSisto.

“The whole design of the facility was underpinned by research and evidence.”

House-style communities

Summerhill’s design is based on a house-type community, with a number of smaller homes connected by integrated care and hotel services that support the site.

Every resident will have their own space, with large rooms and ensuite. 

Buildings will have views of the surrounding hills. Supplied.

Buildings will have views of the surrounding hills. Supplied.

Every room will have a view across the valley, to nearby vineyards and a local apple orchard. For many of the residents, they will be looking across a landscape they know well.

There are also communal areas where residents can gather. Fireplaces and heaters throughout will create a homey ambiance.

There will be a library, cafe, cinema, community room, hairdresser, gym, pop-up shop and family sleepover room.

Outdoors, there will be landscaped gardens, a pizza oven, cafe, terraced areas and decks with views of the rolling hills.

The home will be embedded in the local community, with volunteer groups, such as those for gardening and walking, able to come in and engage with residents. That function will also serve as a support for carers who work in the home.

“The community and volunteers are an integral part of the integrated package of care to our residents,” Mr DiSisto explained. They encourage residents, while at the same time support the staff in an integrated way.

Residents can engage in food preparation

Residents will be encouraged to take part in meal preparation where possible. A central catering facility will bring food up in lift to the communal areas, but there are also kitchenettes so residents can prepare their own meals. 

“We very much want to encourage people to be involved in meal preparation where possible,” said Mr DiSisto.

Otherwise they can join other residents in the communal eating areas and sit around shared tables of between around four to eight.

“There is the capacity for a smaller group or a larger group, or just to be served in their own room.”

Dementia care

The home caters for older people who can no longer care for themselves in their own home. 

It will have a 16-bed Memory Support Unit, but will also be able to support those with early onset dementia, as well as those in the early stages of the disease or with longer term dementia.

Road testing the design

Outdoor communal area. Supplied.

Outdoor communal area. Supplied.

Even though Summerhill’s buildings are no longer suitable, the home’s “culture” and “relationship with the community is of the highest order”, said Mr DiSisto.

Once the plans were drawn up by architects Brown Falconer, they were “road tested” with members of small, local aged care groups, including walking and book groups. There were several rounds of consultations with the community, staff, residents and families.

The development team wanted to make sure its thinking was in line with community hopes and expectations.

Caring for the environment

The home’s environmental impact has also been a major consideration, reflecting the thoughts of both local government and the local community.

The site, which occupies the top of a hill, has been slightly lowered to minimise the building’s impact. The buildings themselves are only a single story.

Water will be captured for bushfire protection and drinking water. Fire management plans have also had to be a major consideration. 

The development team has worked with government, the Country Fire Association, the community and neighbours to fine-tune the environment aspects of the design.

Ageing in the local community

Existing Summerhill residents will move temporarily to CCH properties at Woodside or Magill while the building is being under construction. 

Other homes, including Eldercare and Resthaven, which are also affiliated with the Uniting Church, and Southern Cross Care have offered to have residents temporarily when possible too.

“Older people in the Hills have shown that when they transition into aged care, they would prefer to stay within their existing local community,” Mr DiSisto said.

CCH hopes Summerhill will meet the needs of residents and the community “now and into the future”.

Building of Summerhill is expected to commence next year with the goal of being completed by July 2022.

Images: supplied.

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