Dementia environmental design for that out-and-about feeling!
Blog by Tailored Artworks CEO, Sharron Tancred – Space Transformer
The usual environmental design for dementia doesn’t make us want to visit.
Dementia and everything about it pains me; it’s just so sad. As an artist and decorator I’ve studied dementia design to see if I can improve it and this is my story. Since 2009 after Queensland Health, then Spiritus and then Regis Aged Care asked me to improve their dementia facilities with murals my interest has encouraged these companies to share their research with me to the point where I can now confidently converse with dementia experts.
Improving how we conceal exit doors
I got interested in how to help dementia residents by first alleviating the stresses of exit doors by designing to their viseo-spatial awareness and then how these practices could work with their entire space. To me, there is both challenge and joy in the design of dementia spaces if it means that we improve the happiness of our elderly.
How can you make an indoors space feel outdoorsy?
After creating our range of Resident Room Door Wraps this year that was it was a delight to be asked to renovate the considerably large foyer at Wesley Mission Reid Court, Sinnamon Park. Manager Kim Walford’s only request was that I “bring the outside in”.
Looking for inspiration?
I remember purveying the existing architecture’s exposed plumbing, expansive spaces, metal doors and flat lighting and thinking: Industrial-Retro style! That’s different and relevant! However, how to bring the outside in with industrial-retro styling? How do we create an out and about feeling to reduce stress?
It’s all about style! Imagination + style = results.
You know, once you have a style worked out there’s no limit to imagination and the rest is about resourcefulness, i.e. where to get all the props. Dementia environment design is much more effective when interactive. Think of your space as a stage set!
Props are a must for interaction.
Interactivity is requested from our aged care clients all the time but we have found that if leave the staff to source and install props then it doesn’t happen due to lack of time, knowledge and resources. Nowadays, Tailored Artworks does it all.
An inner-city park theme.
Bringing the outside in at Wesley Mission led my thoughts to a
Themes can provide ideas for wayfinding
Vibrant trees, some indicative of seasons and painted in a soft street art style created the illusion of more space, air and freedom. The tree theme carried into a nearby post helped one resident with a severely limited vision so that he could see the design and find his way. Remember, form follows function.
Taking a theme throughout your space
Being innovative is essential for dementia design and allows for some fun! We left the exit door as an office door because Wesley chose not to conceal it at this time but we did disguise the fire equipment cupboard as a tree trunk! Transforming the admin offices windows into shop exteriors and the hallway into an alley cinema built up the inner city feeling and, being out and about! See how everything flows?
Always add animals.
The stairwell cavity received a brick wall with a Garfield-like cat sitting on it. Residents love to pat animals and so it’s important to have them warm these spaces. “Garfield’s” hand-painted brick wall you’ll notice is vivid for added clarity. Photographic reality is too much reality whereas art can be more vivid, with some give and take, warmer textures and more styling. Your residents have enough reality in their lives!
Add plants and plant-ups but stay on the theme!
Synthetic vines stapled carefully in pace to the “brickwork” around the admin window and beyond softened the space and added to the street vibe. Parks always have water fountains and often, in Brisbane at least, dense tropical plants go hand in hand. Always make sure that the style of plants you select reinforce the dementia theme you are creating.
Art: it’s vital!
Choose or create art that is art large, visual, relevant and on the theme. Tailored Artworks painted a mid-century modern Jackson Pollock styled artwork of the Southbank Walkway, a prominent Brisbane landmark, united all the colours and created more relevance for the residents.
ing. The Textures make for an out-and-about-feeling!
From an all-white canvas at the start what a joy it has been to give Reid Court dementia residents colour and fun and that feeling of being out and about. We added Industrial-Retro style with heaps interactive touchy-feely textures created with Haymes Artisan features.
Haymes Artisan textural effects a must!
Haymes Artisan Iron and Rust, Rendercoat and Industrial effects were a delight to work with right down to adding deep splats of Rendercoat. textures are important because they can amuse dementia residents who like to pick at things. We purposefully balanced these large sections of colour about the foyer to assist with wayfinding.
Door wraps create believable spaces
Our new Individual Dementia Residents Room Door Wraps enhanced the space’s retro styling. The purple door wrap was the biggest hit with everyone! The green retro door too, with it’s circular “glass window” looks incredibly real because Tailored Artworks Door Wraps aren’t like your standard plastic vehicle wraps but are latex printed with a velvet matt finish. We are launching an online shop full of door wraps soon.
The Art of Decoupage for 1950’s theme
For the shop and cinema theme we sourced and decoupaged original movie posters and product ads onto windows and walls. Vibrant 1950’s advertising posters featuring memorable brand names, children and Australian products created heart, engaged memories and conversations. So your residents receive more visitors it’s important to remember that design for dementia is as much about welcoming and engaging visitors, like children and sharing a POSITIVE experience with them.
Emotional happiness: case studies
Of interest to us was resident Joan who after three weeks on-site at Reid Court we noticed some change. Joan would be happy in the morning but subside into tears and bawling by midday. It was with pleasure when Joan’s sunny spells began to increase with the new colour, warmth and atmosphere within her home.
When seating was finally provided, residents were suddenly sitting in this space where they had never sat before, and lingering, and napping! Admin and management have since informed us that residents are enjoying the space all the time. Compliments keep rolling in from residents, staff, suppliers and families.
Perhaps a little dearer than the standard “hotel type decor” what price do we put on our elderly loved ones final years of peace and joy. What price would you put on happiness in your old age? It is no joy to feel the tugging at one’s heart when families experience, day after day, year after year, their loved one locked into an unimaginative sterile space, fretting and demanding release no matter how beautiful their space might be. Dementia residents need to feel out and about so let us give it to them.
Wesley Mission – well done you!
Wesley Mission is to be commended for their care to make real change for their residents, families and staff members with this vision.
How wonderful it is to positively affect such deserving members of our community by merely allowing art to inspire their space. For us, helping managers with their dementia environmental design is not only fun and intellectually rewarding but, a delight!
Enjoy our video below and please use the contact form if you have any questions.