Throughout the world populations are moving towards urban areas and in Australia as in many countries populations are also ageing. This has obvious implications for environmental sustainability when viewed in the context of resource depletion and environmental degradation but also considerable inherent implications for social and urban sustainability. Currently it is thought that the ageing populations will increase the demand for residential aged care (RAC) with an increasing level of dementia specific care. However the provision of these facilities represents a significant investment of resources and the community will benefit if these resources can be better utilised. The argument is put forward that Quality of Life (QoL) for residents is the primary aim for RAC facilities and has been the subject of many studies predominantly from a care perspective and while there is a strong relationship between QoL and care the World Health Organisation Quality of Life Group notes QoL as being multidimensional and difficult to define. This paper argues that this ill defined multidimensional term therefore has other factors that may affect care and QoL, and one aspect is the effect of environmental design. The workplace environment can be a contributor to stress by providing stressors to which an individual reacts and this individual reaction can have a varying impact on physical and mental health. There are many particular stressors associated with RAC that may combine to cause stress with some being the emotionally charged nature of dealing with older people, working with cognitively impaired residents and exposure to and dealing with death and dying. There is an association between quality of care and work stress/job satisfaction and with an estimated 80-90% of care undertaken by carers (as distinct from registered nurses) they may be the 'linchpin' to the provision of quality care. Evidence is increasing that the physical environment affects both job performance and job satisfaction and where the physical environment can introduce potential stressors it can also be used to assist work outcomes. Therefore if workplace stress can be affected by the physical environment and workplace stress also affects the level of care which is a part of QoL then RAC facilities will find it advantageous to consider the insulation of workers from stressors or even the promotion of spaces that stimulate care. This paper identifies a range of candidates as design attributes for sustainable residential aged care facilities that can impact upon carer job satisfaction and stress, and outlines a pilot study intended to confirm/extend this model.
2nd International Conference on Whole Life Urban Sustainability and its Assessment: SUE-MoT Conference 2009 (SUE-MoT 2009). SUE-MoT Conference 2009: Second International Conference on Whole Life Urban Sustainability and its Assessment: Conference Proceedings (Loughborough, UK 22-24 April, 2009) p. 611-632