Grass is high maintenance. It requires weekly mowing, edge trimming and weed-eating, and for those tight spaces or internal courtyards, it's impractical. Now, retirement villages are starting to work smarter, not harder, by using artificial grass. Artificial grass has come a long way from the short, plastic astroturf of the old school days. It looks more realistic, is environmentally friendly, and is more fit for purpose, making it increasingly popular with retirement villages.
In retirement villages, artificial grass is primarily installed in common areas used all year round, such as internal courtyards, said Smart Grass's managing director Jack Kennedy. Artificial grass ensures clean and tidy spaces, reduces maintenance, and makes it safer for residents by removing slip and trip hazards.
"Grass can't be used for half the year because it's muddy, and you can't use walking frames on it, so it's simply not practical," said Kennedy.
Due to maintenance challenges, Bupa has installed artificial grass in many villages, particularly in its internal courtyards.
"It's just impractical and a bit ridiculous to bring a lawnmower through those tight areas."
Higher density living is another example of artificial grass use.
"With higher density living, it's about creating usable spaces, like the rooftops of multi-level villages," Kennedy explained.
For example, Ryman's Brandon Park Aged Care facility in Melbourne features a communal rooftop area lined with artificial grass.
Artificial grass has come a long way in terms of product development, innovation and sustainability.
"It reduces the need for mowing, fertilising and watering, which reduces a village's environmental footprint," said Kennedy.
"Most of our products will last for 20 plus years, and when they do need replacing, they are fully recyclable - a first for New Zealand," he added.
Even though artificial grass is low maintenance once installed, there's a lot of preparation involved. Firstly, developers need to consider the purpose of the area.
"There are several types of artificial grass which are all designed for different purposes," said Kennedy.
For example, bowling green artificial grass is a thin needle punched cloth, whereas landscaping grass is much longer and lush, designed to mimic natural grass.
Secondly, some thought needs to go into the type of artificial grass you choose, as not all are created equal. Engaging a company that specialises in artificial grass is key, not only to ensure you buy the right grass but because they will have specialist installers, making sure of correct installation.
Finally, the cost of the base preparation and scope of work needs to be considered. The grass is not simply rolled out over existing lawns; there is a five-step process for installing Smart Grass which involves excavation and preparing a base.
"This all comes at a cost, and it typically takes a few days for the product to be installed," Kennedy said.
However, once installed, villages will have low maintenance and tidy looking communal areas for residents to use all year round.