By Lynn Baker, Ascent Architecture & Interiors Interior Design Professional
Recently, I visited the School of Design and Human Environment at Oregon State University (OSU) and attended Dr. Seunghee Lee’s interior design studio class. The class included senior interior design students assigned to design a Veterans Administration memory-care facility.
My task: to observe the students’ final design presentations and offer constructive criticism.
The OSU School of Design and Human Environment has a background of faculty and student research in design for aging populations, and the students were well-prepared to fully investigate the design needs of seniors.
Students consulted the staff of a Corvallis memory-care facility to help establish the program, amenities and design features needed for their projects. The students used floor plans of an existing assisted living facility, modifying them to suit their chosen location and the program.
The project included space planning, furniture selection, finish material selection, lighting/ceiling design, and interior renderings.
Memory-care facilities are specifically intended for those with Alzheimer’s disease and/or dementia, and the students planned for residents with varying levels of memory care needs in their projects. Several groups of students provided way-finding by designating different colors for different areas of the building. Other way-finding features, such as memory boxes for residents to display personal items, were incorporated to help residents personally connect with and recognize locations in the building.
Another important aspect of the student projects were “Snoezelen” rooms, which featured lighting and water effects, soft music and chairs that “cocoon” the resident. These rooms are based on “Snoezlen” therapy in which sensory stimulation is used as a method of relaxation.
In addition to memory care accommodations, students included a variety of amenities, from putting greens to spaces for gardening to a resource library for family members. With their color and material selections, students created warm, welcoming and nature-inspired environments, desiring to make residents feel comfortable and at home in the facilities.
Overall, I was impressed with the thoughtfulness, effort, and professionalism in the student presentations and work. For those with experience in design reviews, I’m happy to report that no tears were shed in the critique process. The students gained valuable, real-life experience and learned about the needs of a unique population.