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How to Construct a Dementia Friendly Residential HomeAugust 2019

This article examines how to design a dementia friendly residential unit for those with the condition.

Dementia is a condition that has major implications for the construction industry in terms of creation of dementia-friendly residential units. There are 850,000 people with this condition, which is set to rise by 15% to over a million by 2025 and reach 2 million by 2051 according to figures from the Alzheimer’s Society. Nationwide communities and town centres have striven to become dementia friendly, but attention has now switched to make residential units ‘dementia-friendly’, as the emphasis switches to keeping those affected at home in their own living space.

The construction of the dementia friendly home at the BRE Innovation Park at Watford in 2017 pioneered the new innovative construction of dementia friendly dwellings. Experts from Loughborough University strove to adapt the interior for day to day living as easily as possible with features such as:

  • Increased windows to allow in more natural light. This encourage better daytime alertness and sleeping at night
  • Clear lines of sight and use of colour codes to guide inhabitants between each room
  • Simple switches and heating controls and installation of safety sensors in higher risk parts of the house such as the kitchen or bathroom

Building such homes has paid dividends from a cost perspective as the average state care cost per person per year equates to £30 to £40k per annum via social care costs which equates to between £600 to £1200 per week per person (Alzheimer’s Society).

Details of the Rosemount Gardens Development in Bathgate

In Scotland, equally innovative architecture and design has been applied in the Rosemount Gardens Development in Bathgate. Representatives from West Lothian Council approached architects at Nicoll Russell Studios to design a Dementia Friendly Housing- with-Care Development. Getting the right location was a key priority as it needed to be welcoming to the wider community as well as being easily accessible for older people living in other developments nearby. Rosemount Gardens fitted these criteria.

Once the site had been prepared, construction of the 30 housing units commenced in an L shaped formation with defined street edges converging into a central atrium which promoted clear orientation and navigation, essential for people with dementia. The apartments were designed in the style of typical Scottish tenement design to avoid the appearance of a care facility. Indeed, this was a feature of designing dementia accommodation, ‘trying to steer the environment away from a dementia focus’ where subtly was key. Each flat had an open plan kitchen, a visible WC from the bedroom and installation of a telecare system as many of the adaptations. Social interaction was positively encouraged with a busy café and restaurant for all tenants, staff and visitors to mingle, thus avoiding any feelings of isolation and a much greater community feel. Much care and attention has been devoted to the grounds as well with the design of ‘wander routes’, ‘raised planter beds’ and drying greens to encourage outside activities and meeting opportunities.

A great success

Feedback to the scheme has been very positive with many of the residents simply ‘overjoyed’ at the much-improved quality of life. It represents the much greater awareness of making homes as accessible as possible with the concept of Lifetime Housing to address the inaccessibility and inconvenience of homes to large sections of the population.

The Alzheimer’s Society goes as far as producing a 36-page pdf document which gives extremely valuable information for adapting a residential unit.

Applying such simple measures will indeed make like a lot more tolerable. As Tara Reed quotes from her book ‘What to do between the tears.’

‘...While no one can change the outcome of dementia or Alzheimer’s, with the right support you can change the journey...’

BSRIA is delighted to showcase its commitment to improving accessibility to buildings via its Disaibility Legislation traing course.

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