Applying public design to dementia care

Design for residential dementia care

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, one in three seniors today dies with dementia. Along the way, many of those seniors will reside in residential care facilities that have a reputation for sterile institutional design, poor food, and isolation.

Now, a residential care facility in the Netherlands is applying urban and interior design to improving the quality of life for dementia patients.

As described in this Gizmodo article, the dementia-focused center known as De Hogeweyk does away with the clinical model and metaphor. Instead, it’s designed as a self-contained neighborhood.

Apartments surround a pedestrian boulevard complete with restaurants, cafes, gardens, a market, and more. Because it’s contained within the larger building, this little neighborhood allows people with dementia to still participate in a public and social space while remaining secure.

Shopping, dining out, getting a hair cut–many of the basic rituals of life remain available. Those rituals help residents maintain a better quality of life.

Each apartment hosts six to eight people, a mix of residents and caregivers. Residents can participate in many aspects of living in and maintaining a household, including cooking and cleaning.

Apartments are arranged and decorated according to different themes such as Christian, Indonesian, or artisan. Building on its theme, each apartment develops its own individual characteristics and decor. Such differentiation helps residents enjoy a personalized lifestyle, as opposed to adapting to the regimented routine imposed in a clinical setting.

The Gizmodo article hints that this model for dementia care may soon spread from the Netherlands to the U.S. I like that this model seeks to design a process of living for long-term patients, instead of a facility for warehousing them. (Designing processes for people is one of the main design themes I’ve discovered while researching this blog.)

My parents could well be, and still might be, dementia patients in need of long-term care. I would love for them to have such an option.

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