Drawing on years of project team experience and global research concerning memory care concepts and design approaches, The Cordwainer looks beyond traditional models and reimagines the care environment to address the multifaceted needs of the residents, setting a new standard for standalone memory care communities. By focusing on the growing population of older adults with memory impairment, including Alzheimer’s disease, this project fills a crucial gap in the post-acute continuum for those with memory disorders, a population expected to grow in the U.S. to 9 million by 2030. The Cordwainer’s inviting approach is unique in its delivery of innovative design and programming aimed at dramatically enhancing resident well-being. With its learning-based curriculum and use of biophilia, an approach to architecture and interiors that strives to improve human well-being through greater connection to the natural world, the 50,000 square foot complex stands out as a paradigm-shifting model.
The common lounge and intimate seating areas benefit from natural light throughout the spaces to provide therapeutic sensory stimulation. Minimizing overstimulation is essential for this resident population – many persons with dementia function better in quiet, smaller spaces with familiar objects. This way, noise and visual stimulation are controlled to minimize and reduce stress. A major design aim was to create a highly supportive and practical environment for residents. To maximize daylight penetration deep within the building’s core, the design team added a series of large clerestory windows in common areas.
For those with dementia or memory impairment, the physical environment is especially important when dining – a warm and uncluttered ambiance is a must. Residents are easily distracted; a simple yet sophisticated color pallet is helpful.
Designing a residential unit that feels like home or a beautiful hotel suite, rather than a clinical space is essential – well-lit with clear wayfinding cues. A resident with memory impairment is further comforted if the environment is designed to allow for personalized details, such as the ability to incorporate furnishings, artwork, and family photos from home.
As with its overall design approach, the facility’s programming incorporates the latest research in dementia care. A range of spaces – such as dedicated activity rooms, workshops, and informal “living spaces” – support a proprietary dementia therapies programming called The Learned Environment. This unique program incorporates curriculum-based activities involving art, music, and foreign language to stimulate cognitive function. This project is also among the first memory care communities nationwide to incorporate Tovertafel, a unique system that uses sensor-supported light projection to help seniors living with dementia engage in specially designed interactive games, with proven benefits to physical, cognitive, social, and emotional well-being.