Designing for Dementia with Age UK Enfield

Project date: 2016

Age UK Enfield approached The Glass-House for advice and support, and we delivered a workshop to explore how their building can be improved to support a hub for dementia advice and services.

Age UK Enfield are working with Enfield Council to explore the potential for their building, the Parker Centre in Edmonton, North London, to offer the optimum environment for their future Dementia Hub. When Age UK Enfield approached us for advice and support, we identified a need to take a good look at the building from a design perspective.

With the support of Glass-House Enabler Stephen Smith (architect with Wright&Wright Architects), the workshop explored the current use of the building, and brought together diverse perspectives including: Age UK staff that manage the building and run the care services; service users suffering from dementia and the carers who benefit from the current support services and activities; and an occupational therapist who supports the link between home-based care and support centres like this one. The workshop also engaged a representative from Enfield Council, who was keen to explore how they could work with Age UK to get the most of this council-owned property to support local people suffering from dementia and their families.

Through discussion and a facilitated walkabout, we explored how the building is currently working, and what changes and improvements would better support a Dementia Hub. With a strong focus on the need for a building that feels welcoming and safe, that supports wellbeing and that caters for special needs, we identified some of the key issues and opportunities to use design to improve the quality and functionality of the spaces. We also began to explore how local connections and partnerships could help Age UK extend its reach and raise awareness about dementia in the UK today.

The workshop offered an important reflection space for those who own, manage and use the building. Looking at the classic form, feeling and function of the building helped reveal the potential of design, whether through small or large changes, to transform the building and the quality of the spaces within it. While the workshop started with reflections on how important people are in making a building feel welcoming, as the workshop progressed, those present reflected more and more on how the quality of the spaces affect the people within and interacting with the building.

The workshop also revealed the importance of bringing together diverse voices and perspectives in the early stage of visioning and brief development.  The complex range of experience and expertise around caring for those with dementia, combined with a sensitive and informed approach from the design team around designing for health, wellbeing and special needs could really unlock the potential of this building and what it can offer people in the future.

Comment from workshop participant:

“Really useful morning going back to the essential focus of the building and what works well…It gave us a better understanding of how and what we can do to improve [the] space and [how] this can work for our clients.”