The number of Alzheimer homes is likely to multiply over the next decade, given the massive increase in patients being predicted. In addition to the well-tried prosthetic approach, an Alzheimer home should ideally contain three components: healing architecture, a more human approach to resource-management and leading-edge electronic surveillance and artificial intelligence.
The aim of the research on ‘Alzheimer and Architecture’ for the health care sector is to provide insights into ‘healing architecture’ regarding accommodation facilities for this specific health care sector; an Alzheimer institutions, or home stay, taking into account the various types of provisions, requirements, issues and legislation relating to health care, as well as the various building typologies and associated requirements, so that these insights can be translated into a safe environment.
The growing inter-cultural society also makes other demands on the design of health care institutions and home stay. Changing perspectives on the way Alzheimer patients are in need of care also influences the design concept.
People living longer and stay healthier longer in absolute terms. The elderly want to control their own lives and that includes being able to continue living in the house where they often live for years and feel at home. The right environment for an Alzheimer’s patient can facilitate their mental responses while improving their physical health. However the opposite can also be true. In residences where the setting is counterproductive, mental and physical conditions can deteriorate. How do you translate the sometimes-conflicting interests of the care provider and the patient into a sustainable and wholesome design?
What became clear, is the vulnerability of dementia patients. Alzheimer’s effects so much more than just distortion of memory. It is the disintegration of all structures, patterns that make up our lives. A point where all components become entangled, diffusing the overall composition. To develop an appropriate narrative on future living conditions of Alzheimer’s patients is to take this vulnerability into account, while creating a safe environment that can still enrich every day experience.
How does a safe environment of an Alzheimer’s patient looks like in the future? With this research Henri Snel, Architect, lecturer and researcher would like to contribute to the discussion of the disease in general and generate possible solutions for improving the living condition of Alzheimer patients in the future.
I propose an investigation into ‘haptic architecture and tactual senses’ from an architectural perspective. I believe that the Alzheimer patient needs a more sensory related space. The patients often losses the contact with the outside world, they are more and more depending on their primary senses. This implies a restoring of the more intimate relation. And they are thrown back to sensorial perception as communication.
Ashley Montagu writes: ‘The skin is the oldest and the most sensitive of our organs, our first medium of communication, and our most efficient protector [...]. Touch is the parent of our eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. It is the sense that became differentiated into the others, a fact that seems to he recognized in the age-old evaluation of touch as ‘the mother of the senses’.
Haptic architecture is sense triggering. Architecture articulates the experiences of being in the world and strengthens our sense of reality and self. Especially Alzheimer patients need bodily experiences to not feel alienated and confused but to create a safe environment that can still enrich every day life.
Henri Snel, April 2012