Housing with Dementia Letting Boundaries Disappear

Franz Jordan-Haus Warburg
Franz Jordan-Haus Warburg | Photo: Lukas Roth, Köln

The consequences of demographic shift affect all areas of our lives, above all the living situation of older people. Whether living together or separately, wishes for living in old age have changed.

Seniors want independent and self-determined lives for as long as possible, in residential surroundings suited to their needs. According to a survey by the Bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft der Senioren-Organisationen (German National Association of Senior Citizens / BAGSO), the concept of adjusting everything exclusively to the interests of the older generation, with their remaining amongst themselves as a community of seniors, is almost completely irrelevant. The absolute majority of those surveyed wishes to be a part of the community and finds a city attractive for all generations.

The challenge of dementia

However, models of unrestricted living and individual housing do not function for everyone, since many are dependent on assistance, support and care. It is certain that the number of people in need of care will rise in coming years. The increasing number of dementia patients represents a particular challenge. At present, about 1.4 million people with dementia are living in Germany. The Deutsche Alzheimer Gesellschaft (German Alzheimer Association) estimates three million for the year 2050. In recent years, with models such as assisted and outpatient living, outpatient shared-living residences and specialised homes, new, special living arrangements have emerged that are precisely aligned to meet this need. With citizen-based networks, initiatives that take a stand against discrimination and for social integration and a dementia-friendly municipality, antiquated patterns and images of people with dementia are gradually being corrected.

Attuned to needs

Since the 1970’s, Berlin architect Eckhard Feddersen has dedicated himself to a high-quality architecture in the area of social services. With his firm Feddersen Architekten, he has developed a series of buildings of exemplary design quality with appropriate residential forms and spaces for people with dementia. The Nürnberger Kompetenzzentrum für Menschen mit Demenz (Nuremberg Dementia Competence Centre), completed in 2006 for the Diakonie Neuendettelsau is pioneering. It has a doctors’ facility and offers counselling and support for family members as well as a mixture of individual, family-like residential groups. The design of the interiors as well as the outdoor areas conceived by Harms Wulf Freiraumplanung is attuned to the needs of dementia patients. The design of the room ambience is fundamental for the identification of the residents with their new living situation. It should convey security without sacrificing clarity in the sequence of rooms and furnishings. A tranquil, pleasant acoustics and clear orientation aids by means of colour and light are important, since cognitive abilities become increasingly limited in the course of dementia.

Independent living

Promoting socially integrative housing projects for the older generation is, among other things, the goal of the Erich and Liselotte Gradmann Foundation. One of their focal points is support for innovative concepts especially in the area of dementia. Since 2001, the foundation has awarded a bi-annual design award for new residential projects. The Paderborn firm of Matern Architekten BDA has been awarded the prize twice: in 2011 with the construction of the Sophie Cammann House in Paderborn and in 2013 for the new Franz Jordan House in Warburg.
 
  • Nürnberger Kompetenzzentrum Demenz Foto: Feddersen Architekten, Ronald Grunert-Held
    Nürnberger Kompetenzzentrum Demenz
  • Nürnberger Kompetenzzentrum Demenz Foto: Feddersen Architekten, Ronald Grunert-Held
    Nürnberger Kompetenzzentrum Demenz
  • Nürnberger Kompetenzzentrum Demenz Foto: Feddersen Architekten, Ronald Grunert-Held
    Nürnberger Kompetenzzentrum Demenz
  • Franz Jordan-Haus Warburg Foto: Lukas Roth, Köln
    Franz Jordan-Haus Warburg
  • Franz Jordan-Haus Warburg Foto: Lukas Roth, Köln
    Franz Jordan-Haus Warburg
  • Sophie Cammann-Haus Paderborn Foto: Lukas Roth, Köln
    Sophie Cammann-Haus Paderborn
  • Sophie Cammann-Haus Paderborn Foto: Lukas Roth, Köln
    Sophie Cammann-Haus Paderborn
  • Haus im Viertel, Bremen Foto: Bremer Heimstiftung
    Haus im Viertel, Bremen
Both projects are smaller-scale, manageable facilities and have evolved a fine sensitivity to their residents’ needs in their interior and exterior design. These are group living projects in which the preservation of competences and options for independent activity and living are in the foreground. The Franz Jordan House in Warburg is designed for 63 residents in four groups over two storeys. Two groups are housed per storey and are placed around two inner garden courtyards. A natural, glassed-in arcade provides orientation and enlivens perception.

Living as neighbours

Shared living arrangements are also an alternative to daily life in retirement homes for people with dementia who want community, exchange and integration. 1,400 of these shared-living arrangements already exist according to the Kuratorium Deutsche Altershilfe / German Society for the Aged, and their number is increasing. One residential project based on living as neighbours by the Bremer Heimstiftung / Bremen Foundation of Homes and Residences is called “Haus im Viertel” (i.e. house in the neighbourhood). It was built by Plan Zwei Architekten of Hanover on the grounds of an old bread factory and has been gradually expanded to include a shared-living flat for dementia patients, a restaurant, spaces for the Volkshochschule (German state-sponsored adult education), a day-care centre for children as well as a meeting place. In their design for a residential complex for Stadt und Land Wohnbauten Gesellschaft mbH in Johannisthal, Anne Lampen Architekten of Berlin have integrated a dementia-friendly shared living arrangement. It is a multi-generational neighbourhood model in which the concept of community is given priority and the quality of the architecture allows the boundaries between living and care to disappear.