How can Australia design better aged care homes for people living with dementia?

Author: Words by Lauren Broomham

With up to 80% of people living in residential aged care experiencing some form of dementia or cognitive impairment, more aged care providers are thinking outside the square when it comes to designing homes for people living with dementia.

Aged care provider HammondCare has been leading the way in delivering dementia care with its small household model for many years – but other operators are also making their mark.

Case in point: there is an increasing number of ‘dementia villages’ being built – HammondCare opened Adelaide’s first dementia village last year, the University of Canberra is building its first dementia village and a local parish has opened a small dementia village at Port Macquarie on the NSW Mid-North Coast.

HammondCare Daw Park

Korongee set the standard for dementia villages in Australia

ThomsonAdsett, the country’s most experienced seniors’ architects, designed Korongee, the first dementia village to open in Australia in 2020 outside of Hobart.

Operated by Not For Profit provider Glenview Community Services, the village features four houses set in separate cul-de-sacs with a range of community services including a café, community centre, salon, wellness centre and General Store.

The scale of the buildings is also very domestic with weatherboard houses, picket fences and community gardens.

But the dementia village model is still not widely available in Australia.

So, how can providers ensure that larger facilities are designed for people living with dementia – and quality of life?

Home-like design is the key

Dr Tanya Petrovich, Manager of Innovation at dementia advocacy peak body Dementia Australia, says the key to good dementia design is for the space to be ‘home-like’ – but that doesn’t mean that the environment has to resemble a small house.

Dr Tanya Petrovich

“It’s about what does ‘home’ mean to people,” she said. “Home means that ‘I feel welcome, I feel warm, I feel safe, I feel secure’ and that’s what the environment needs to provide.”

Tanya says that homes should be:

  • Easy to navigate – from finding the bedroom and the bathroom to going outside, the space should be easy to navigate
  • Easy access to green space – Tanya says Dementia Australia has often found the door to the outdoors are locked
  • A warm, comfortable temperature
  • Less ambient noise – so commercial kitchens positioned away from living areas
  • Less clutter – so medication trolleys confined to the back of house, and less patterns on floors, walls, and soft furnishings

Dementia Australia also offers EDIE, which stands for Educational Dementia Immersive Experience, a virtual reality experience that enables the user to experience life as ‘Eddie’ to help them understand the impact that the environment has on the person living with dementia.

Dementia Australia’s EDIE program

This experience can help architects, staff, and providers to understand the sensory requirements and create checklists and processes to ensure the design is suitable for people living with dementia, for example, the positioning of windows and the choice of floor finishes.

With close to 200,000 older Australians living in residential aged care, it’s a small investment that could make a big difference to these individuals and their families.

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A special thanks to our contributors

Caroline Egan

DCM Media, agedcare101

Caroline has a wealth of experience writing within the retirement and aged care sector and is a contributing journalist for the and agedcare101 blog and accompanying newsletters.

Ian Horswill


Ian is a journalist, writer and sub-editor for the aged care sector, working at The DCM Group. He writes for The Weekly Source, agedcare101, and the DCM Institute fortnightly newsletter Friday. Ian is in daily contact with CEOs of retirement living, land lease and the aged care operations and makes a new contact every week. He investigates media releases, LinkedIn and Facebook for a good source for ideas for stories.

Lauren Broomham

Retirement and Aged Care Journalist

Lauren is a journalist for, agedcare101 and The Donaldson Sisters. Growing up in a big family in small town communities, she has always had a love for the written word, joining her local library at the age of six months. With over eight years' experience in writing and editing, she is a keen follower of news and current affairs with a nose for a good story.

Jill Donaldson


Jill has been practicing as a clinical physiotherapist for 30 years. For the last 13 years she has worked solely in the Aged Care sector in more than 50 metropolitan and regional facilities. Jill has also toured care facilities in the US and Africa and is a passionate advocate for both the residents in aged care and the staff who care for them. She researches and writes for DCM Media.

Chris Baynes

DCM Media, agedcare101

Chris has been a journalist and publisher in the retirement village and aged care sectors for 11 years. He has visited over 250 retirement villages and 50 aged care facilities both within Australia and internationally. Chris is a regular speaker at industry conferences plus is a frequent radio commentator.

Annie Donaldson

Nurse and Carer

Annie has a long career in both nursing and the media. She has planned and co-ordinated the medical support from both international TV productions and major stadium events. In recent years she has been a primary family carer plus involved in structured carer support.