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    Engaging Wanderers

    by Bradford Perkins, FAIA, RAIC, AICP

    The wayfinding system — explicit and implicit cues for orientation — in any building can be an important contributor to occupant comfort, especially for those who may feel insecure in their environment. For older people suffering from dementia, it is particularly important that finding their way around their residential facility be as effortless as possible. Here are a few pointers on designing such facilities for this diverse and growing population. — Editor

    Alzheimer's disease, one of the most common causes of dementia, proceeds in stages, gradually destroying memory, reason, judgment, language, and eventually the ability to carry out even the simplest of tasks. While the effects of the disease can vary greatly with the individual, even from day to day, the goal of specialized housing is to maximize what residents with Alzheimer's can do, so that they can live in a dignified residential (rather than institutional) environment.

    Wandering — that is, movement without apparent purpose — is a common behavior among people with Alzheimer's disease, though little is known about the physiological reasons for this. Designers should view the wandering path as a major opportunity for innovation.

    Although some facilities strongly endorse loop-walking paths to eliminate dead ends (which can lead to frustration), such paths can also lead to an almost catatonic-like behavior or repetitive cycling.

    Engaged Wandering

    One should not assume that wandering will be limited to corridors; creatively weaving rooms into the wandering path can help orient residents and provide activity spaces as destinations for socializing along the way. It is important that the path appear distinctive, with transitional changes in texture, lighting, and acoustics to help make physical segments memorable and the actual activity of walking more enjoyable.   >>>

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    This article is excerpted from Building Type Basics for Senior Living by Bradford Perkins, with permission of the publisher, John Wiley & Sons.

     

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    Mary's Woods at Marylhurst, Lake Oswego, Oregon, is a senior living facility designed by Mithun.
    Photo: Eckert & Eckert

    ArchWeek Image

    "Memory boxes," such as this one at Mary's Woods at Marylhurst, help residents recognize their room while personalizing the entry.
    Photo: Eckert & Eckert

     

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