Designing a dementia friendly environment

Interior design can improve quality of life. Layout, light, colour schemes and furniture are, therefore, important considerations when trying to make a sheltered housing scheme attractive and practical for its older residents.

However, additional thought needs to be given when creating surroundings for those with a visual and cognitive impairment such as dementia. For instance, excessive signage can make a place feel less homely and lines on flooring can be confusing. That’s why Ashford Borough Council has appointed PRP architects, who have designed some award-winning schemes, to be the interior designers at Farrow Court in Ashford.

Work to re-provide Farrow Court and make it the flagship sheltered housing scheme in the borough is well under way, with Denne construction, a Bouygues company, already on site and working on phase one of the scheme. The appointment of PRP as interior designers will ensure that when new build work is complete, Farrow Court will offer dementia-friendly accommodation offering 100 high-quality living spaces built to the council’s lifetime homes standards and space standards.

Creating a dementia-friendly environment is something that needs to be embedded as part of the scheme’s design. This means that the layout of the building will be logical, avoiding long corridors but creating memorable landmark points to create confidence and independence in those who live there, and a welcoming environment for those who visit.

PRP are experts in this field. Council officers visited Campbell Place in Fleet (shortlisted for best retirement scheme in the 2012 Housebuilder Awards) and Alexandra Place in Wokingham (winner of the most innovative sheltered housing scheme at the 2012 Housing Innovation Awards) and have taken aspects from these designs, along with ideas they themselves hold, that they would like to see implemented at Farrow Court.

Cllr Aline Hicks, Ashford Borough Council’s portfolio holder for housing, said:

“I welcome the announcement that PRP will be working on Farrow Court’s internal design. The project is set to make Farrow Court a centre of excellence for dementia care and excitement continues to build among not only our officers, but crucially residents too as we progress with phase one.

“Our housing services are renowned for their innovation and I am keen that sheltered housing evolves to reflect the changing support and care needs of tenants. Having been with officers to the exemplar schemes, I know that Farrow Court will transform the lives of existing residents, enabling them to live independently and feel part of the local community.

Jenny Buterchi, Director of the PRP Specialist Housing team, said:

“At PRP we strongly believe that good design can have an overwhelmingly positive impact on people’s lives, particularly for people with cognitive and physical impairments. The importance of the interior design and how it complements the architectural design is vital to the success of Farrow Court. The balance between creating a contemporary, homely environment, which is also enabling for the residents, is one we are familiar with and we are therefore delighted to be given this opportunity to bring our experience to the project.”

Farrow Court will also include learning disability units and recuperative care units for people released from hospital who need respite before they return to their home. There will also be a new day-care centre, communal facilities, a hairdressers and a restaurant that can be used by the whole of the local community, not just residents.

Funding secured from the Homes and Communities Agency and the Department of Health illustrates how important the project is being viewed nationally.