Trap rooms for the soul

I’ve had the unfortunate experience of visiting a few care homes recently. My dad has vascular dementia and has needed respite care in a secure unit of a dementia home to recover from an operation.

Beyond the deeply upsetting nature of the homes, I’m fascinated by the architecture and design of the spaces. Here is the home that my dad is currently in:

The building is designed as a loop: internally it feels circular, it allows for a continual semi-cognisant drift. There is something profoundly tragic and almost cruel in allowing people to travel without ever reaching their intended (or impossible) destinations.

It reminded me of Loop Geography and Trap Rooms, the construction of an architecture to pacify and contain, forget and hide. They’ve built a psychological treadmill to allow for constant movement without interruption and restriction.

How are these structures designed? Do they come from an architectural consultation with Dementia experts?

An alternative, is Dementiaville. A dutch care village that constructs a different form of care. Instead of trapping the residents in an immovable now, they transport them to a fictional past. The ethics of this is complicated, but I know one thing, the now is not that great for these people. I wish my Dad was in Dementiaville.

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2 comments
  1. Andrea said:

    It’s fascinating – and I like what you’re saying. Never knew about Dementiaville but without wanting to sound like I know a lot about ethics, I know a bit about old people. I used to live with my grandparents; they moved in to a neighbourhood built for retired pilots so most of them were roughly the same age when they got the keys to their new places. Growing up, the inevitable occurred: men died earlier than the women, leaving behind a lot of widows that only had children and grandchildren as support. Very few went into care homes, but I can think of a great number of them who could have and maybe should have!

    As long as the world still searches for a way to offset old-age illness (given we haven’t figure out how to cure or delay these things), I don’t see anything wrong with making the environment as friendly and welcoming as possible.

    If you think about hotels, they’re always made to look like a ‘home away from home’ and as though you’re the first person to walk into the room (instilling some sense of ownership, even though the room isn’t your property, but you control the space for a few days/weeks/whatever). And the other interesting thing I think about is rented accommodation…everyone loves bringing in stuff that defines them. Because there’s no sense of ownership, it’s leaving your mark on a borrowed space. I don’t know if that makes sense but in that kind of context, Dementiaville is doing a fantastic job!

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