Throughout the first day of the 30th International Conference of Alzheimer’s Disease International in Perth, Australia, one of the things that caught my eye was Max and Barbara’s Apartment for Life.
This space was designed as a fully equiped one bedroom/one bathroom apartment with living room, dining room, studio and patio.
Every single element in this place had a meaning or a reason to be there, being the main one to bring well-being into Max and Barbara’s lives. (A lovely fictional couple created by the design team, Max being the one living with Alzheimer’s and Barbara being his wife and carer).
All of the objects and design decisions not only were adapted to Max’s needs, condition, type/level of dementia and symptoms, but also to Max and Barbara’s likes, preferences, favourite activities and careers.
This impressive apartment was also designed under the 10 (evidence based) design for dementia principles. (Read 10 Design Principles for Dementia)
The overall design of the apartment is open plan with wide door openings, level thresholds and two directional light in order to allow easier access and navigation around the different rooms and minimize dark corners that may confuse Max.
Every room had key elements such as bright light globes, sensor lights, high contrast objects like plates, shelves and chairs, wireless door sensors, magi plugs, among others, in order to provide Max with a more independent everyday life, at the same time protecting him from risks and giving Barbara the chance to have a more comfortable life.
These are some of the most important rooms and their features:
Interesting objects are present to promote conversation and interaction.
Contrasting furniture to help with visualization.
Central location and easy access, with comfortable contrasting chairs that invite for interaction.
Big contrasting elements in bright warm colours that stimulate apetite and make them easier to be seen.
Some shelves without handles for risk objects such as knifes, and others with handles for everyday safe use objects to help Max keep protected in a non-obstructive way.
A double-purpose blackboard to write reminder and motivational messages and to cover the fridge in a preventive way. Next to it, a small fridge with a see through door and ready to eat safe food and drinks.
Glased window to create a more relaxing environment, and a blackout to promote better sleep at night.
Doorless wardrobe for easy access to everyday use basic clothing pieces. Labeled drawers to keep independence and facilitate object location.
Contrasting toilet seat for easy location. Higher and with a handle for comfort.
Wide shower for easy assistance and folding contrasting seat for easy location.
Mirror with blind for easy hiding and preventing Max from feeling confused. Open shelves for easy access to everyday use objects.
Max and Barbara’s apartment is a space where good design meets functionality to provide greater independence, comfort and better quality of life for people living with Alzheimer’s disease and their families.
Dementia Enabling Environments