This article was originally published in Sourceable by Jock Gammon.
Australia’s ageing population is about to greatly increase the country’s demand for living infrastructure.
Anyone who knows Baby Boomers knows this generation is not going to go off quietly into old age. Combine that with the fact that Australians are living longer, and it is essential we unlock the benefits of integrating plants and living infrastructure systems into our aged care facilities.
Australians have one of the highest life expectancies in the world, and more than 15 per cent of our population is currently aged 65 years or over. This number is projected to rise to over 20 per cent over the next two decades. We don’t like to think about getting older, but our aging population means that an increasing number of us will require the services of aged care facilities in the coming years.
An aging population will also lead to an increase in the number of people living with dementia. An assessment of Australian government-subsidised aged care facilities in 2011 found that more than half the residents were living with some form of dementia. Alzheimer’s Australia projects that in 2017, dementia will cost the Australian community over $14 billion.
With rates of dementia expected to rise with our ageing population, it’s increasingly important to find cost-effective ways to maintain the health of aged care residents.
The addition of plants and green infrastructure can help create a healthy environment in aged care facilities. It’s widely acknowledged that the natural environment has a positive impact on people’s health and happiness. Biophilia is the term used to describe people’s innate desire to connect with nature. It recognises that human beings have a natural longing to be connected with other living things.
Biophilic design is an innovative way to satisfy people’s desire to connect with nature in urban settings. By bringing plants and natural materials into our everyday living spaces, we facilitate a regular connection with the natural environment. There is a large amount of research to prove this.
The positive effects of nature on mental health have been studied extensively. According to Dr Mardie Townsend at Deakin University, contact with nature is associated with a reduction in stress, increased resilience and increased social engagement. This is particularly relevant for people with dementia who commonly suffer from anxiety and agitation and experience higher rates of depression.
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