Institute for Future


31 January 2017

A deeply personal photographic exhibition showcasing the lives of 20 Brisbane aged care facility residents who were the subject of a QUT research project is now on at the State Library of Queensland.

Running from 23 January to 28 February in the Asia Pacific Design Library, Living in Aged Care: A photographic exhibition of laughter, loss and leisure shares the residents’ photographs and poems, providing a rare and intimate insight into the often-private world of aged care. It also highlights the increasingly important role design will play in the lives of older people.

The free exhibition is a visual representation of research led by Associate Professor Evonne Miller from QUT’s Creative Industries Faculty, funded by the Australian Research Council and BallyCara, a Brisbane aged community care facility operated by the Queensland Hibernian Friendly Society.

“We are an ageing population. By 2050, one in four Australians will be older than 65 years and by 2031, the number of older Australians requiring access to both community support and residential aged care will increase 63%, to 1.4 million (ABS, 2005),” Professor Miller said.

“It is a global trend and as such the World Health Organization has advocated active ageing, identifying health, participation and security as the three key factors that enhance quality of life for people as they age.

“Our project takes a design perspective in attempting to give an insight into the day-to-day lives, experiences and expectations of older Brisbane residents living in one Brisbane aged care facility.

“For designers, the exhibition serves as a powerful reminder that good design starts with a deep understanding of the user experience.

“Despite growing awareness and engagement with concepts such as design for dementia, universal, inclusive and age-friendly design, designers are only just beginning to focus on the ageing demographic.

“It’s time to get serious about this as the needs of our ageing population are going to transform the design of products, homes, services and cities.”

While the exhibition focuses on the perspectives of 20 residents living in residential aged care and retirement village, the broader qualitative research also examines the views of their family and friends, and the aged care workforce including nurses, carers, cooks and administrators, with over 100 participants in total.

“Critically, innovative design can significantly improve older peoples’ quality of life, independence and mobility,” said Professor Miller.

“We are already seeing examples of how architects and interior designers are making residential housing more flexible and adaptable, exploring the potential of densification, ‘granny’ flats and multi-generation housing.

“Dementia-friendly design emphasises the importance of simplicity and familiarity, wayfinding and engaging our senses (colour, touch, texture, smell, sound), while aged care design is increasingly more personalised and less institutional, with a focus on liveability and technology.”

Professor Miller said there was also a growing market for product, industrial, fashion and interactive designers to create ‘smart’ products and clothes that track blood pressure, physical movement, vital signs, offer impact protection from fall, shoes that emit light or clothing that just makes getting dressed easier for older people with arthritis or dementia.

“In the same vein, landscape architects and urban planners can create attractive public spaces that welcome and support older people,” she said.

“From access and social inclusion, well-lit and wide footpaths, signage and street furniture, to slowing traffic and prioritising walkability, these design decisions affect whether older people can use our public spaces.”

Along with photographs taken by residents, the exhibition includes images snapped by staff, the research team and documentary photographer and QUT Masters student, Tricia King. The poems were created with the help of internationally acclaimed poet and QUT creative writing academic Sarah Holland-Batt.

Living in Aged Care: A photographic exhibition of laughter, loss and leisure is on until 28 February 2017 in the APDL Design Lounge, level 2, State Library of Queensland. Entry is free.

Media contact:

Amanda Weaver, QUT Media, 07 3138 9449,

After hours: Rose Trapnell, 0407 585 901,

QUT Associate Professor Evonne Miller.

Rowena, a BallyCara resident who participated in a QUT research project on the important role design will play in aged care. Photo: Tricia King.


Institute for Future Environments

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