Interior design

assisted bathrooms or hair salons you have on offer, no-one wants to live like this. Note the NHS hospital blue colour in the top-left image below. This is frequently found with pale pastel patterned curtains, the light tones of which cannot be fully appreciated by older eyes.

Note also the hospital waiting room- style furniture and ask yourself what these people might think they are waiting for…? Fortunately, I think most operators have now evolved past this outdated model.

Staffing ratios affects design In your head you may be shouting any, or all, of the following: ‘staff recruitment and retention has always been difficult in this sector!’, ‘after Covid-19 finding qualified staff/staff training while looking after existing residents will be challenging’, and ‘the very idea of post-Brexit staffing is daunting’.

OK, I get it, having been in home management myself, but I also know that design can help significantly. Providing seating in groups facilitates interaction between people, engagement with crafts or puzzles, and gathering around a television programme in a more meaningful way. It provides nooks for residents to meet with relatives and creates a homely ambience. This is, after all, their home.

Open shelving-floor or ceiling fixed for safety - with displays, books, games and other points of interest allow a direct ‘look through’ which is so useful to staff, particularly when their numbers are limited.

For the Royal Star & Garter home in Surbiton in south-west London. Park

Might care home operators consider offering a guest room on a paid basis to relatives visiting from out of town?

Grove Design used open shelving in this dementia area for memorabilia and activity baskets, which can be taken out for individual or group activities.' Working with the care team during development assured that Project FF&E included interactive experiences that are appropriate to a specific area and user group.

Other countries with aging

populations offer a glimpse of alternative design approaches to challenging staff levels. In Japan, people over age 65 make up a quarter of the population, necessitating design innovation. In the UK at least half a million older people go five or six days a week without seeing or speaking to anyone at all. Some Japanese operators have either invested in, or rent, minibuses to collect local residents from their private dwellings to bring them to the care home on a scheduled basis.

Here they interact with residents and large numbers of people can be entertained during events, communal cooking, and art classes with relatively low supervision levels assuming an open plan interior design. The attending guests pay for these outings thus providing a potential income stream as well. That requires at least one large, adaptable communal space with storage, coat hanging and an appropriate level of accessible toilets.

This is one of the many operational/ design interventions being trialled in other countries. A monthly podcast with links to a forum-based website is being launched later this year specifically to share international best-practice and cutting-edge care and dementia design research. Go to for more information.

The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted a potential ‘new normal’ for care homes. The Timesrecently reported that one in four carers was unable to get to work due mainly to self-isolation or childcare issues. In retirement projects my company Park Grove Design nearly always designs guest accommodation. Might care home operators consider offering a guest room on a paid basis to relatives visiting from out of town? Could these facilities also be used to accommodate staff during any future lock-down situations?

Future aesthetics for the third age Care and dementia environments will continue to develop as stimulating environments. Multiple speakers at last November’s Care and Retirement Conference in London referred to the present influx of residents as largely educated, well-travelled, and active. People aged 70-plus have lived for decades with gym memberships, book groups and social media.

Consider for a moment the situations in which adults cannot choose their own environment: the military, hospitalisation, and prison. There are undoubtedly a few others. However, it will be the experience of most people that they have made choices regarding their interior environment based on personal preferences and taste.

The now famous De Hogeweyk dementia village in Weesp, Netherlands opened in 2009 with seven distinct room types titled upper class (‘Goois’), homey, urban, Christian, artisan, Indonesian and cultural, as the developers believed these to be most relevant to their various resident groups.

For Park Grove’s work with Royal Star and Garter home in Surbiton we designed 15 different room types, producing 3-D visuals of each to allow incoming residents and their relatives to choose the environment in which they would feel most at home.

July 2020 • 19

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