Natasha Chadwick, CEO and Founder of NewDirection Aged Care, is set to expand her ground-breaking, 21st century aged care concepts across the world.
NewDirection Care (NDC) is a world-first aged care facility providing residents with a level of care unmatched in traditional aged care operations.
Based in Queensland, Natasha established NDC Bellmere nine years ago with the passionately held ambition of creating a high-quality facility that puts welfare, well-being and happiness of residents at the centre of the decision-making process.
The aged care concept is founded on a simple guiding principle – that the elderly who become residents feel as comfortable and welcome as possible.
“What we mean by that is that we want people to feel they are moving from one home into another home, and not into an institution,” Chadwick says. “They are moving into a home – that is the heart of our approach.
“We want our residents to continue to live the same life they had in their individual homes. We can create that comfortable environment in our micro-town and community.”
Instead of institutionalised care for the elderly where individualism and personal freedoms are sometimes left behind, the company emphasises independence and choice as the foundation for a rich and satisfying lifestyle in later years.
Residents live in shared homes with access to gardens and outside facilities as well as proximity to a micro-town shopping precinct complete with medical and dental facilities, a movie theatre, chemist and cafe. There are also regular activities and events conducted with the involvement of family and friends where possible.
“At Bellmere, we challenge the institutional model of traditional aged care and focus on enabling residents to live their lives as closely as possible to what they have experienced in their own homes,” she adds. “They have the necessary support to ensure their care needs are met. This means residents live in the home according to their lifestyle – not diagnosis, and are supported to be as independent as possible.”
Chadwick, who recently won the innovAGEING Innovator of the Year award, intends to spread her message as far as possible. Later this year, the CEO will launch a licensed version of her NDC aged care concept, providing other aged care operators with a blueprint to replicate her success and innovative approach.
“We were on a growth pathway before COVID-19 hit and we had planned to launch our expansion in 2020 with a licensed product and were also looking at a new development – a vertical concept – but with the advent of the pandemic we simply had to change direction,” Chadwick says. “At that time, we had to do everything we could to protect and look after our residents and meet the regulatory requirements. That became our focus. However, in 2021 we decided we couldn’t put it off.”
The flaws identified in Australia’s aged care system by the Royal Commission has created an environment that is keen for change and reform. People from community leaders to the elderly and their families want a different kind of aged care that provides better outcomes and a higher quality of care.
The NDC expansion, which has been planned for later in the year, encompasses two pathways. The first is the vertical development – a re-imagining of the NDC Bellmere facility in a vertical or high-rise space. This requires less land but provides the same kind of experience as Bellmere with its gardens and outdoor facilities, which is better suited to urban environments.
The second is a complete licensing package allowing an operator to replicate the extraordinarily successful NDC facility at Bellmere, complete with its unique housing, microtown precinct and resident-focused approach to staffing.
This encompasses a modular approach in which operators can take parts of the concept and apply it to their existing operation.
“We are going beyond the usual licensing model to a modular concept,” Chadwick explains. “We can provide the whole concept in which everything is included, allowing operators to provide the same facilities and services and achieve the same outcomes – including financial outcomes, if they do it the way it is licensed to be done.
“Alternatively, we can provide the concept in modules. If they want to build the group homes that are part of NDC’s unique approach then they can, while also considering the needs of those with dementia, hearing loss, and all of the other issues residents live with.
“These homes meet all these needs and normalise an environment for the residents – that’s an especially important part of our successful and innovative approach, which transcends the traditional aged care model. They can do that with one of our modules.”
“Finally, an operator may choose to establish a micro-town in the same way we have. If they want the micro-town, then here it is. If you want the houses, then here they are. If you want the staffing model, then you can do it. The modules provide everything you need from start to finish.”
There are several international operators already interested in working with Chadwick. The global aspect of the expansion will develop further in coming months as the team re-engages with contacts in Canada, the UK and the US, all of which were put on hold because of the pandemic.
Despite international facilities that on the surface share similarities to the NDC model, interest remains strong.
“There are some major differences between our operation and others internationally,” Chadwick shares. “We are an integration of dementia care and aged care while in other villages, the residents all experience severe dementia or Alzheimer’s.
“Our approach integrates aged care, dementia care, early onset dementia care as well as other aspects. We believe it establishes the future of aged care.”
Chadwick says operators can take the entire journey, from developing a new site to upgrading and refurbishing an existing traditional aged care facility.
“You can take a traditional facility and turn it into a new model, or you can have brand new development and implement in exactly the way that we have done,” she adds.
And operators will have the added benefit of not making the same mistakes Chadwick made along the way.
“We started our first housing pilot back in 2012 and the first working house came on board in 2013,” she says. “Then we added the micro-town concept in 2017. We had to make changes along the way to meet government regulations and requirements and we made mistakes, too. We had to find other ways to do things.
“But people who licence our modules don’t have to make those same mistakes. They can get from where they are now to a very advanced model, and they can do it very quickly and without all the heartache.”