Trends in Alzheimer’s Architecture & Design

Trends in Alzheimer’s Architecture & Design

time icon 4 min read update icon Sept. 26, 2019

The right environment for an Alzheimer’s patient can facilitate their mental responses while improving their physical health. However, the opposite can also be true. In residences where the setting is counterproductive, mental and physical conditions can deteriorate.

Familiar Domesticity

According to Susan Black, architect and founding partner of Perkins Eastman Black, the first priority when designing a residence for Alzheimer’s patients is to create an environment that is “homelike, caring and something that fosters a sense of place.” Moving into a residence can be a traumatic experience for any senior, but creating familiar domestic spaces similar to any residential home can put seniors at ease.

Access to a kitchen not only gives residents the freedom to choose their meal times and creates the opportunity for cooking activities, but also contributes to a familiar setting. Even in the exterior, everything from gardening, to hanging out laundry on the clothesline, and even washing the car help to foster a sense of home.

Black’s firm is responsible for Woodside Place, one of the earliest care homes designed for Alzheimer’s patients in the U.S. “The architecture honors the Quaker tradition of the environment where [residents] live” in rural Oakmount, Pennsylvania. The interior reflects an intentional ‘country’ style, boasting such distinguishing features as Dutch doors in keeping with local culture. Residents are even permitted to bring in their own furniture to add to their comfort and sense of place

Creating Spaces

According to Margaret P. Calkins, President of IDEAS Inc. and author of Design for Dementia, there are three aspects to consider when designing residences for Alzheimer’s sufferers:

  • The Micro
    • Immediate environment (which becomes increasingly important as an individual progresses through the disease).
  • The Meso
    • The rooms, building, and shared rooms and amenities.
  • The Macro
    • The outside courtyards or exterior spaces, as well as the larger community.

On the back of the 2011 Global Alzheimer’s Summit held in Madrid, we’ll be covering the eight main trends in Alzheimer’s design, and how to incorporate them into the Micro, Meso, and Macro of your Alzheimer’s residence. Look out for next week’s first trend – including mother nature.

Maintaining Intimacy

At the 2011 Global Alzheimer’s Summit, Manuel Del Río of Río-Ferrero Architects, and Margaret Calkins, President of IDEAS Inc. and author of Design for Dementia, discussed how to create spaces that improve the quality of life for people living with Alzheimer’s. One of their central points demonstrated how maintaining intimacy is crucial for community residents.

While a 10-person home may seemingly provide the most opportunities for personal care and attention, the same is also possible in larger-scale homes. Residences can be developed on a larger scale, thus decreasing the unit cost per resident, while increasing personalized care. Del Río attested “I’ve seen larger residences with up to 1,000 patients that have very, very small modules which are virtually self-sufficient. It’s economically viable, but it depends on whether they can participate in the rest of the community spirit.”

Calkins agreed. “From the perspective of economies of scale, it’s often easier to operate when you have more residents and you can have your staff efficiencies work better. You can have 100 beds from an organizational perspective, but from the residents’ perspective they ought to feel that they are in a smaller space,” she said. “[In the U.S.] we still have communities and care providers who are creating units of 40-60 individuals all living in a single space, and I think that’s overwhelming for most individuals with dementia.”

Whether in 12-bed or 60-bed home, a familiar, residential-scale is the easiest for someone with Alzheimer’s who is suffering cognitive limitations to be able to manage and understand.

Sharp Seniors - Editorial Staff

This guide was originally published on Sharp Seniors. Grandfolk acquired SharpSeniors.com in 2017 and restored it's content for readers.