One of the most promising advancements in memory care treatment in recent years is the rise of “small home” communities.
A growing number of providers recognize these communities allow for a more person-centered care model that reduces the frequency of agitation, aggression or other dementia-related behaviors. The smaller scale of these communities, meanwhile, can allow a provider in highly competitive markets to stand out.
One example of this trend is Williamsburg Landing, a 39,654 square-foot community in Williamsburg, Virginia. The community is the 2018 Senior Housing News Architectural and Design Award winner in the memory care category, and is notable both for its homelike environment and mixing an adult day component with its residential memory care.
The mission of the development’s owner, the nonprofit WIlliamsburg Landing, was to bring a home-like setting to its memory care component, RLPS Architects Partner-in-Charge Eric Endres told Senior Housing News. Lancaster, Pennsylvania-based RLPS served as the architect and designer of record on the development.
Williamsburg Landing already had memory care on its campus, but it was more clinical in nature. The way providers care for residents with dementia has changed so dramatically over the years that staff and residents felt they needed more of a home-like environment.
“Many memory support neighborhoods feel clinical,” Endres said. “We wanted to change that, which also impacts staff by allowing them to spend more time getting to know the residents.”
Williamsburg Landing’s memory care is separated into two communities of 12 people, across two floors. The top floor is the memory care unit, while the lower floor is dedicated to adult day care. Williamsburg Landing discovered this was in demand while researching the market, the community’s president, Greg Storer, told SHN. Adult day care and memory care also share treatment synergies, which allows for the development of joint activities for socialization.
Each floor has its own dedicated common areas and dining rooms. The back of house, meanwhile, can accommodate the myriad dining needs of both resident populations. Williamsburg Landing wanted the common areas centralized, in order to provide some separation from the private residences for wayfinding purposes and in the event a resident becomes agitated and needs to be calmed, RLPS Architects Partner Eric McRoberts told SHN. McRoberts was the senior designer on the development.
To further reduce the possibility of agitation, the development team used distinctive colors that have a calming effect, as well as finishes to enhance wayfinding.
Each community has its own entryway, along with screen porches adjacent to the larger common rooms, and are positioned to allow maximum daylight.
“We wanted to prevent sundowning,” McRoberts said.
The indoor areas provide easy access to Williamsburg Landing’s outdoor gardens in the rear and sides of the building. Those outdoor walking areas are bordered by a combination of wrought iron fence and brick pillars, complementing the classic colonial Williamsburg architecture.
“When you put some thought into connecting spaces, people get engaged with them immediately,” Endres said. “It reduces boredom, isolation and loneliness, which positively impacts residents.”
The site’s topography posed a unique challenge to the construction team. Williamsburg Landing was building a new assisted living community, renovating its skilled nursing facility and has future plans to build another memory care building, Storer said. Laying out the site to accommodate that expansion was a priority, as was navigating the other construction projects.
The site’s hilly topography and setback lines provided other problems, which the team solved by moving the building further down the hill, providing a natural separation between the adult day care and memory care components, McRoberts said. This also allowed RLPS to build parking on the lower level.
Soil composition also presented challenges.
“It’s mostly clay, which makes setting the foundations trickier,” McRoberts said.
Williamsburg Landing has been praised since its opening. The building was fully occupied almost immediately, with the majority of residents moving over from the older memory care facility, Storer said. The other residents came from outside the community.
“Families love it,” he said.
RLPS conducted a post-occupancy evaluation of Williamsburg Landing one year after the building received its first move-ins.
“The residents and their families love the feeling of being in more of a home-like setting,” McRoberts said. “Visitors find it so welcoming they find themselves spending more time there, having meals with residents and wind up volunteering on site.”
The biggest praise may be from fellow senior living providers. Williamsburg Landing has had several life plan communities tour the facility to study the design and programming features, in order to incorporate these into their own memory care facilities, Storer said.
Williamsburg Landing made the most of its site, according to Perkins Eastman Principal and Executive Director Dan Cinelli, an SHN Architecture and Design Awards judge. Cinelli was especially impressed by the flow of the rooms.
“They could have kept the flow of traffic linear, instead of curved,” he said. “With the latter, it makes wayfinding easier to program.”
Pope Architects President and Housing Team Leader Ward Isaacson, another SHN Awards judge, loved the efficiency of the design.
“In terms of the site layout, it was clever how they utilized the grades to allow courtyards for adult day and the upper level courtyard for memory care,” he said.