Grand Rapids played host to a recent summit that sought to bring together experts in the field of senior living to “Rethink Dementia”.  Brian Pangle, CEO for Clark Retirement Community and his peers have a goal to envision a dementia friendly community embraced by the city of Grand Rapids. In order to succeed in implementing this grass roots effort, education and awareness must play a key role.

The community not only has to support the change, they also have to immerse themselves with the change – whether it’s changing the way we look at a confused stranger on the street, or embracing those who are different from us. Most importantly, we must change the way we think of accessibility and how we design our buildings, walkways and environments.

To quote Dr. Peter Rabin’s, “20-30% of individuals diagnosed with dementia decide to remain at home on their own”. They have the same basic desires we all have, which is to sleep in their own bed, see the same doctor, shop at the same stores and worship at the same church that they’re accustomed. In order for that to occur, we need to join the community in aiding to create an environment that is safe, easy to navigate and accessible.

Expertise and lessons learned from designing spaces for dementia in senior care facilities can be applied to the community at large. For example:

  • Well lit pathways
  • Seamless flooring transitions
  • Contrasting materials between floor and wall surfaces
  • Easily identifiable signage with large contrasting print
  • Places to rest when the distance is too great from point A to point B
  • A refuge area with a friendly face upon a moment of confusion

Overall let’s work to de-stigmatize the fear of dementia and let those effected know that we, the community, want to walk and live alongside them.

Check out this Designing for Dementia for more insights:

dementia memory care senior living facility design infographic
Designing senior living to best accommodate memory care residents