Dementia Gardens, Nightingale House, Wandsworth

The Care Home For Older Jewish People

Nightingale House, based in Wandsworth, London commissioned both the Architects and Tim Lynch Associates to produce a state of the art dementia unit. Construction commenced in 2010 with the demolition of an existing wing to the main home, to allow for an extended new build.

TLA was required to link into the existing gardens, yet at the same time provide secure space and surroundings for those with dementia. Originally, a secure boundary of 2.2m to the garden itself was proposed, but it was felt however that by making the existing boundaries to the home more secure, this provided a more open and less confined space for all families, staff and residents to use, rather than provide a secure area divorced from the rest of the site. However, a low hedge of 1.2m high has been planted that is not only evergreen, but between the months of May-July produces white flowers that are heavily fragrant (Osmanthus x burkwoodii)

The dementia garden is divided into five clearly defined areas:

1. Quiet and semi-shaded area. This area is next to the activity room within the main building and allows for a quiet space to sit outside. Its circular paving surrounded by planting has a slightly textured flooring that is coloured similarly to the carpets inside the main building, to provide a sense of continuity.

2. Main patio and activity space. A pathway leads from the quiet zone and passes two iconic English landmarks or mapping points, being a red telephone box and historic letterbox. After this point, residents will pass under an archway with a low 1.2m high swing-back gate. This gate is positioned to be opened and provide a sense of journey from one area to the next. It is repeated throughout the scheme.

The main patio is connected to the main dining area and with wide opening bow doorways, residents can walk out on to the two sector patio.  Some residents will not move far from the comforts of the home. Therefore, seating, features and a semi-enclosed space with low trellis helps to form a sense of calm and security in a partly shaded location.

The second half of the patio is more open and has an interactive water feature, seating and a greater sense of openness and sun. This area has a built-in external hi-fi system so the home can add music or sound to any event that they hold.

3. Garden Club area. A 1950’s style gardening area with raised beds,  plus a garden shed with tools relevant to the period and an over-sized thermometer on the outside for all to read the temperature throughout the day. For those who do not want to take part in this area, an existing curved pergola, covered in wisteria, jasmine and thornless climbing roses provides and excellent walkway and shaded seating area.

4. Period Garden 1940’s-50’s. Leading from the garden club area or covered pergola, the path leads out into a recreation of a period garden that in form and style reflects the gardens found in London and the surrounding area during that period. The path passes a period bus stop, with themed signage and bus timetable. This is located in front of a garden gate and driveway gates that residents can open and close.  Walking into this space, a washing line with clothes and washing basket can be found, as well as an iconic car of the period, being a Morris Minor.

This car, as with the telephone box and letterbox, is recognised anywhere in the UK. Residents, families and children can sit in it and either play, or more importantly evoke memories past, which can be recorded by staff for future use on themed days.

Planted containers, hanging baskets, lawn area, water feature and a gazebo all add to the sense of theme and mapping points. The gazebo has a dual activity, the first  being to look back down the whole length of the dementia garden and the second being its view to the open area that has been designed as a park.

5. Park area. This therapeutic dementia garden has a park theme next to it with children’s play area. This park is located at the far end of the overall garden, so as to give a sense of looking into the dementia garden and being outside. The children’s play area is a space for grandchildren, who may find visiting a relative with dementia slightly threatening, yet with a play area to enjoy and run around, this sense of fear is removed. For the residents concerned, there is a sense of moving outside and visiting somewhere new. If correctly monitored by staff, they can ask the person concerned if they are enjoying their visit, what memories they have of it and what may have been brought back to mind.

All this helps in recording facts about a person and may help that person be more open and happy in their environment. With well-trained staff, these memories can be remembered and events take place to develop further the person’s wellbeing.