May 2018

Synergy House: Design that Supports Dementia

Welcome to Synergy House: a whole floor of our aged care home at St Patrick’s Green, Kogarah specifically designed to support our residents living with dementia. Synergy House is a place where both human-centric design and a dedicated care team encourage our residents to live life to the full. 

“We wanted to challenge the traditional aged care model, even from a building point of view,” said Greville Ingham, Project Director of our 12-storey independent retirement and aged care village. “We have challenged compliances, such as assisting our residents with preparing meals, in order to deliver a more appropriate homestyle living experience instead of a clinical settling.”
 
Whilst the entire Synergy House features design elements that encourage mindfulness and support memory retention, it is the 1950’s style home located in its centre which stands out the most. The home, with a white weatherboard exterior and red front door, is complete with a living room, patio, functional kitchen and laundry. 
 
Daz Smith, Greengate’s Director of Dementia Excellence, stated “When a person living with dementia can see key places, such as kitchens and dining rooms, it gives them the opportunity for engagement and allows them to make choices. Synergy House provides an environment that taps into a person’s implicit memory, which enables our residents to carry out commonly learned tasks, such as washing dishes or cooking an omelet.”
 
Residents of Synergy House aren’t treated as patients, and the opportunity to perform everyday activities improves both their lifestyle and mental wellbeing. At St Patrick’s Green, Kogarah we have provided a supportive setting which allows residents to feel at home, and not dislocated - it’s our hope that those who live in Synergy House will continue to enjoy their normal home routine.
 
When choosing the interior design, our team at St Patrick’s Green considered the average ages and profiles of future residents in order to pick a style that would evoke feelings of home. “People living with dementia can often struggle with depth of perception, so whilst we had to a pick a style that was suitable for our demographics, we also had to come up with an interior design solution that met dementia requirements, such as colours and contrasts” said Greville. A perfect example of this can be seen in the faux patio, which looks natural to people living with dementia and provides a calming sense of normality. 
 
Daz added, “our design team did a great job at creating a familiar place with usable, enjoyable spaces and recognizable objects. This goes a long way in supporting a person living with dementia to continue their normal life with more ease and simplicity.”
 
Inside the home there are faux windows featuring backlighted images, giving the sense that you are looking outside onto a backyard with a hills hoist. Greville said, “we wanted the interior space to feel like a home in the Sydney suburbs. There are models like Synergy House all over the world, but we are the first to bring it to Australia in a vertical village, so we wanted to mould it to suit our culture.”
 
Well-defined pathways guide residents past points of interest in Synergy House. The halls feature photos from the local area to stimulate residents’ memories, most of whom have lived in the St George area for decades. Textured wallpaper lines the hallways, and each corner has its own colour scheme to assist residents with recognising which part of the home they are in. “The hallways have been designed to promote wayfinding and have been successful in helping people to navigate around the physical environment. This has enhanced their understanding and experience of the space,” said Daz. 
 
Of course, excellent Dementia care does not come purely from design, and our innovative care model is supported by our passionate team of care staff and lifestyle coordinators. The team at St Patrick’s Green has a relationship-centred approach to care and strives to enrich the life of each resident. We believe the best way to do that is through building strong and respectful relationships, not just between our residents, but also with their families and our team of village staff. 
 
St Patrick’s Green caters to a range of care needs, from independent living in our retirement apartments to 24-hour nursing care in our boutique aged care home. If you would like to learn more about Synergy House or our Kogarah village, please call us today on 02 9097 9175 or email stpatricksgreen@greengate.com.au.