focus of the centre is people with early dementia, we believe dementia should not be the sole defining criteria of their lives. For example, the people who will be moving in will be fairly able-bodied, and will include couples who want to remain together despite one partner showing signs of early stage dementia.

‘An innovative use of colour and other creative environmental cues’ help residents find their way around the development and maintain their independence.

physical activities, as well as further integrating The Croft into the local neighbourhood.

Using colour for wayfinding A decline in navigational skills is one of the most common symptoms of dementia, and carefully considered design can play a critical role in wayfinding for those with a care need. At The Croft we have deployed an innovative use of colour and other creative environmental cues to help residents find their way around the development and maintain their independence. People with dementia don’t necessarily pick up on numbers, but they can relate to colours – and some better than others. For instance, research suggests that blue is perceived as calming, while red has been found to increase brain activity, and is often used for dinner plates, as studies have found it increases appetite.

At The Croft, we have used colour to mark the entrances to doorways, so that residents can orientate themselves internally and externally. Each wing has a series of colours at the main entrance; residents have a specifically coloured porch

Peter Moran

Peter Moran has over 30 years’ experience covering all sectors of the built environment, and has been at the forefront of primary care health design, elderly care design, and social housing within the practice, over the last 10 years. He has worked closely with the Northern Ireland Health Estates Investment Group in the review of specialised primary care provision within Northern Ireland, and has contributed to a ‘best practice manual’ on primary care design. He is currently involved in the reconfiguration and upgrade of several community nursing facilities throughout Ireland, and the design of a new acute mental health unit in Dublin. He also leads the social housing team within the practice, and has successfully delivered a range of general needs and Category 1 elderly housing for a number of housing associations throughout the province.

Peter Moran retains a ‘hands-on’ approach to all the projects he directs, assuming a project director role in addition to his other management responsibilities.

He has significant experience in leading meetings with user groups, community groups, and presentations to client bodies. Design quality achievement in his delivered schemes has been recognised through building award successes locally, nationally, and internationally. His previous healthcare projects have included: • The Carlisle Health and Wellbeing Treatment Centre, Belfast. • Shankill Wellbeing & Treatment Centre, Belfast. • Knockbreda Wellbeing and Treatment Centre, Belfast. • Beech Hall Wellbeing and Treatment Centre, Belfast.


to their front door, and, on the internal streetside, the entrance to their apartment has a panelled wall, which will be the same identifiable colour.

We have also included other

environmental cues, such as creating little ‘memory boxes’ within the panelling at apartment entrances where residents have the option to place mementos – such as keepsakes or photos of their grandchildren – to identify their apartments, We have balanced the undoubted importance of reminiscence with the need to keep the environment as unfussy and clear as possible. We’ve done it in a fairly minimal way; beyond the ‘memory boxes’, areas where items of reminiscence – such as old post boxes – feature, are controlled, avoiding a feeling of clutter and disorientation.

Ageing in place

What we’ve done at The Croft is design a variety of homes that can adapt and change as the needs of the residents change. There are 15 one-bedroom, one- person apartments, seven two-person, one- bedroom apartments, and two two-person, two-bedroom apartments. Although the

A National Institute for Health Research study investigating the issue of comorbidities for people with dementia, with a particular focus on stroke, diabetes, and visual impairment, found that a substantial proportion of those living with dementia have other serious health problems - often more than one at the same time. Our apartments are thus designed so that, as dementia or other conditions progress, there is no need to move out of a familiar setting. For example, if a resident needs to use a wheelchair, each apartment has sufficient space to manoeuvre, as well as having plenty of knee space, with fittings such as sinks, worktops, and cookers, placed at low level.


It is often hard to fully appreciate the life- changing impact of dementia. However, through the design of our buildings, architects can exert some influence on minimising the confusion and anxiety, as well as improving the wellbeing, of those living with dementia. It is clear that dementia is as individual as it is personal, and a one-size-fits-all approach will not provide the correct environment for those living with dementia. Dementia-friendly housing and care environments should be conceived to fit comfortably into the local community, and, through physical design – such as providing quieter spaces, and simple interventions such as creative use of colour and light – we can ensure that people diagnosed with dementia are able to lead full, active, and independent lives for as long as possible.


l The Croft won the award for Best Dementia Care Development at the 2019 Building Better Healthcare Awards.

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