Care homes designed with an interactive methodThird Places 26 Jan 2017
People in care homes are often forgotten, but how can you help them if they cannot speak? When redesigning a care home in Noorderbrug, Groningen, I came across an unusual challenge. The residents were not able to speak. Their speech was either severely impaired or completely gone due to an accident or illness.
Don’t tell me what you want, show me.
So, I couldn’t just ask the care home residents what they wanted. It was clear that a fresh approach was necessary. Together with Peter Mensingh, I developed an interactive method to let the residents show us what they needed. We started by showing pictures and asking them for a response. However, if you show a picture of an interior to someone, both functionality and atmosphere are represented. These concepts had to separated. This separation was achieved by developing two sets of cards. The first set was made of icons showing a function, like a cup of coffee to show drinking coffee, or a book representing a library.
It was clear that a fresh approach was necessary.
The second card set showed different atmospheres, such as that of a bar, a living room, or a beach. We asked residents to pick 12 of those 60-70 cards, with some sort of function they would like to have in their meeting room. We repeated this process with a couple of user groups to be able to compare. What was amazing was that 50% of cards were picked by all groups, showing us some universal wants. We had created a visual democratic voting method that ended up leading us to a clear consensus.
Atmosphere and its implications
Next came atmosphere. We showed 80 cards, asking people to focus only on the atmosphere, whether it was a bar, nature scene, lavatory or a modern interior. The functionalities were already picked; the atmosphere would be the final touch. Once again, there was overlap. In Noorderbrug, the residents reached an exceptional high of 80-90% agreement in the cards they picked. They all picked nature cards with blue, purple and pink colors.
We decided to seek out help from a color psychologist to dig deeper and let us know what these similarities meant. Turns out, these were all thinking colors that gave room to the mind; people were looking for peace. So we created an interior with a sky that fades from lighter to darker, from east to west. With this visual, tangible method, the results of the workshops became the design’s backbone. We wanted to give people what truly wanted, along with giving them a voice.
Photography: Marco Heyda, wall paper textures by CreaBea