A visit to an age care centre 10 years ago made Tamlyn Carr think about the importance of design in helping people transition to aged care services and facilities.
“It was impersonal and I immediately thought, ‘I can do something special here’,” Tamlyn said.
Her family had been furniture suppliers to Australian retailer for 45 years, but she now began to think about what features residents needed as they moved from their homes into care. It was the beginning of her furniture company Wentworth Care, a Leading Age Services Australia affiliate that designs specifically for older people.
“When we talked to people who were moving into aged care about what was important to them, everyone said freedom, family and possessions. We knew we couldn’t replicate someone’s house but we could create home-style furniture.”
Comfort and practicality are fundamental to all Wentworth Care’s designs. “I’m often surprised at some of the beautiful chairs I see in care facilities that are also extremely uncomfortable. I won’t sell a chair that isn’t comfortable,” Tamlyn said.
The common features customers see in the Wentworth Care catalogue include higher seats, arms that help the sitter lift up, and antibacterial fabric that can be easily cleaned.
One of Wentworth Care’s most popular chairs was originally created for a specific customer. It was designed with a three-quarters back, grip rails and a timber top so that fabric wouldn’t become dirty or stained.
“Our best designs have always come from our customers,” Tamlyn said. The challenge for designers is to provide something residents can relate to, but that represents today’s fashion.
Part of the consideration is appealing to the resident’s families, who are also involved in final decision on where their loved ones will live.
Wentworth Care has been working with a Queensland facility comprising seven individual houses and 120 rooms. Although the building dimensions were the same, each interior was unique and the variety of furniture in each bedroom meant no two were identical. The approach helps residents feel more at home in their surroundings as they have a say in the furniture they will be using every day.
Tamlyn is seeing shifts in the sector as a more individual approach is taken. “One of my favourite pieces is a queen-sized hi-lo bed. We’re now being approached by facilities who have married couples living with them. They don’t want to sleep in two single beds pushed together. They want to be able to sleep next to each other as they have been doing throughout their marriage,” she said.