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Designing Environments For People With Dementia

To mark Dementia Awareness Week 2016 Gibberd Architects take a look at the recently completed project The Orangery in Bexhill-On-Sea with a focus on Design for Dementia.

In 2015 there were 850,000 people with dementia in the UK, this figure is estimated to rise to over 1 million by 2025 creating environments which are suitable for our aging population and an increasing number of people suffering with dementia is becoming a major design consideration across many design sectors from healthcare, to housing and community facilities.

Gibberd Architects have a portfolio of experience in healthcare and have demonstrated their design skill in this specialist area of design for dementia through a number of projects including the Older Persons unit at Callington Road for Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust and Regis Gate Extra Care Scheme in Sittingbourne for AmicusHorizon. We also celebrate the recently completed Extra Care Scheme The Orangery in Bexhill-On-Sea for AmicusHorizon which Gibberd were appointed as Executive Architects and Interior Designers. Extra Care is a unique building model developed to meet the acute housing and care needs of older people. Extra Care  housing has been demonstrated to provide cost benefit to the NHS and other healthcare commissioners as generally residents in Extra Care schemes have fewer trips and falls, lower levels of hospital admissions and when hospital stays are required these are usually shorter. All these elements contribute to improve the health and wellbeing of the residents of these schemes which is of immeasurable value to quality of life as we age.

Key considerations in design for dementia care are building legibility through simple design and effective signposting. Gibberd worked closely with a number of stakeholders and a local resident’s reference group to develop the design, material finishes and furniture at The Orangery to achieve a legible and comfortable space which assists wayfinding and orientation within the building. Colour and contrast, lighting, signposting and both internal and external communal areas play important roles in the well being of patients with dementia.

At The Orangery we have used colour to signpost key areas of the building, feature colours denote the circulation cores within different areas of the building to aid orientation and the use of contrasting colours to flat entrance doors and integrated memory shelves outside each flat so that residents can further personalise their flat entrance to aid familiarity and recognition. Floor finishes were carefully considered to minimise contrast between different floor finishes which to users with dementia may have appeared as a change in level which could cause hesitate and unsteadiness. Whilst minimising contrast of floor finishes is believed to be beneficial; contrast between walls, doors and junctions with the floor is vital for those with poorer sight to be able to understand and engage fully with the environment around them.