Kerry Southern-Reason, Managing Director, Care Home Interiors Co.
Gentle encouragement in good design is all you need for the perfect care home interior.
We all know our way round our own homes; we know where everything is and every detail, from the creaky floorboard to the little defect on a wallpaper join. Now image you are thrust into a completely different living environment and expected to know your way round, couple that with having an age related decline in spatial ability and you can image how confusing and difficult it would be to learn and remember where you are. If that wasn’t bad enough imagine everyday not knowing where you are and why you are there.
Here at the Care Home Interiors Co. this is something we always consider when embarking on a dementia design project. Empathy in understanding how confusing it can be to venture into a different property and not fully understand where you are or where anything is. It’s normal, we can all experience this, which is why with a little bit more understanding unfamiliar living environments can be designed to be much more intuitive to what most consider familiar.
When we talk about wayfinding our first thoughts might be of an outdoor pursuit with a compass and a map. In interior design we use the same principle by employing design methods as navigation tools. We hope that the unique piece of artwork, or sensory display acts as a que to know this is where we turn to eat or my room is down here.
One particular area where special attention must be given is in corridors. We cannot get away from the fact corridors exist, and it isn’t always possible to keep corridor runs less than 20 metres. In some very large builds these can be intimidating, even scary, especially if the individual finds themselves alone with no reference points.
As we know memory and perception is one of the biggest declines affecting those living with dementia. Therefore our aim is to maintain the familiar as much as we can by continuing the homely look and feel within corridor areas.
We start by differentiating styles.
Uniformity may be seen appealing but to someone living with dementia lack of differentiation can be worrying, is it the same corridor or a different corridor?
A recommended solution is always to differentiate. Differentiation provides strong reminders and indicators of where an individual might be. This can be achieved by adding differing visual features such as distinct artwork.
Artwork can make an environment seem familiar, yet support individuals in finding their way around the home. A memorable picture can aid people with their memory loss, and help an individual relate the picture to being close to the lounge, dining room or toilet.
We use additional design methods such as activity stations to provide strong reminders. It can make those connecting spaces, such as corridors, enjoyable places to be and spend time.
Wayfinding signs don’t have to be words. Something as simple as a hat rack or a collection of flower posies can act as a cue to enable independent wayfinding.
For us it is about creating recognizable spaces without them being over stimulating, gentle encouragement is all that is needed to start a wayfinding journey to the destination. All corridors will lead somewhere; we make sure design encourages that journey in a safe and positive way.