January, 2014, a new residence and care home for aging adults opened in Nørresundby, Denmark (just across the fjord from Aalborg). It’s called Fremtidensplejehjem, which means Nursing Home of the Future, and it’s a new facility that is based on sensory stimulation, keeping active/exercise, and socialization. It incorporates new design, and open and social use of space, and high technologies.
I have been attending public and academic meetings in the community about the Fremtidensplejehjem for about the past 2 or 3 years, so have had a good idea of what they envisioned. I was studying welfare technologies specific to dementia care at Aalborg University, so this new building was particularly interesting for me. Yes, I applied for a job there when they were opening, but, unfortunately was not one of the lucky chosen. Part of the reason could be that they are not focusing on dementia care in Fremtidens – of course they know that they will have residents with dementia (in Denmark, around 85% of those in institutional care have some form of dementia), but they did not adjust the facility to specifically accommodate them. I think this might be motivated by their plan to later build a Dementia Nursing Home of the Future (plans are for this building to open in 2017).
Even though I don’t have paid work there, I live quite close and have grown fond of using their entrance area (with plenty of tables, free wifi, sunlight, and free coffee as my “free range” office. I take my lap top and books, set up at one of the tables, and draw inspiration from the surroundings. I must say, so far, all the staff and residents I have encountered in my “free range” office have been absolutely accommodating and helpful, and it seems as if they also enjoy that people from the community use the public space – it brings a different kind of life to a “nursing home” when it is also a space that people meet up for coffee, for visiting with friends (who may or may not live in the institution), for “free range” working, and for bringing a bit more of the community into the community space. Although it hasn’t happened yet, I imagine when I get into some writers block or stuck on a problem, a leisurely walk along the fjord will get the creative juices flowing again.
Thursday, March 20, 2014, I attended a guided tour of Fremtidens, hosted by Alzheimer Foreningen, the Danish Alzheimer’s Association. The tour was led by a PhD student who has been involved with the project for the past 3 years (I didn’t know they had PhDs or students working on the project – which is a little weird since I was one of maybe 5 people that I knew of at the University studying dementia care and the only one at the University studying technologies for dementia care), and we got to see the IT helpdesk (offered free to the public to help older adults figure out their online services used for banking, healthcare, and other governmental services), the wide hallways, the gym and rehabilitation rooms (also offered free to the public over age 65), common areas such as the Orangium (a space where the residents can hang out with an excellent view of the harbor), kitchens where families can come to cook meals together and the residents make bread on the weekends, the media room (for watching movies, listening to music, or reading – also with a fantastic patio overlooking the harbor), and a few other things.
One new design I hadn’t seen before was a centralized network of garbage pipes that suck the trash to one, non-smelly, location and reduces the spread of germs and infectious diseases. Another design that I thought was smart was that they used these large stickers on the hallways (all hallways, floors, and doors are the same color – which I find better than facilities who have different colors for the different levels). They are self-adhesive, easy to clean, and I found it easier to remember if such-and-such was on the poppy floor or the tree floor. This picture isn’t from Fremtidens and shows 4 designs, but you get the idea:
The hotel lobby-like entrance to the building, with wide windows open to the surrounding community (near a shopping center, university housing, park, and harbor):
The IT Helpdesk:
The Orangium with living wall, views of the fjord, and tables and chairs for lounging and activities:
Den Søde Køkken (The Sweet Kitchen) where families and residents can cook food, and the staff has bread baking with the residents on the weekends. This room has large doors that open up to overlook the Orangium. It is one floor up, so has even better views of the fjord.