A new direction: what makes a good home for the elderly?
In 2013 we were commissioned to design two care homes for Carebase, who have care and nursing homes across southeast and east England. At the time we had little knowledge of the sector, but, since many people in the practice have elderly parents and relatives in care homes, we were personally aware of the difference that good (and not so good) care home design can make to physical and mental wellbeing, and wanted to give it our all.
Researching precedents around the world revealed innovative designs that allow people to grow old with dignity, create a delightful and fit-for-purpose environment, and acknowledge the benefits of integrating elderly care within existing communities. Through research and discussions with Carebase staff, we identified a list of design principles and aspirations for elderly care homes that informed our designs, including:
- meeting a wide variety of physical needs
- supporting people’s independence while encouraging socialising
- creating spaces that are light and uplifting
- making the most of the outdoors, and views out; easy access to external spaces and fresh air
- creating a homely sanctuary; reassuring, comfortable, therapeutic without an institutional feel
- connecting spaces logically, with an intuitive and open layout, perhaps using colour and texture for wayfinding
- making visitors feel welcome, not in the way or hurried
- considering the needs of couples who do not want to be separated or who need different levels of care
For Carebase we designed a new care home in Oxford. We worked closely with the client to understand what makes a comfortable and pleasant home and a good work environment for nursing staff. All bedrooms are en suite, and the design strives to foster a sense of community on all floors, with communal lounges and dining facilities, as well as a bar, garden lounge, hairdresser, café and library on the ground floor.
A slope on the site allowed us to maximise the number of rooms with private outdoor space. Creating a strong connection to the outdoors and making the most of views across Oxford were key design considerations; the proposed site is on a private road in a conservation area, so it was important to lessen the impact of traffic and noise pollution to nearby residents, and ensure that the mass of the building fits with neighbouring properties. It is elegantly integrated with the verdant landscape, with a lower level sunken courtyard, timber cladding and access to green roof terraces.
Walters & Cohen Architects
2 Wilkin Street
London NW5 3NL
020 7428 9751