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Design Center

April 1, 2004
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Free to Be S. Mark Taper Foundation Adult Day Health Care Center Los Angeles, California by Robert Volzer, CID, IIDA
S. Mark Taper Foundation Adult Day Health Care Center

Type of Facility/Setting: Alzheimer's/dementia day-care facility (not-for-profit)
Owner: St. Barnabas Senior Services, Los Angeles
Chief Administrator: Martha Spinks, PhD, MSW, (213) 388-4444
Architecture: AZ Architecture Studio, Santa Monica, Calif., (310) 829-9176
Interior Design: Evans, Harvey and Associates, Inc., Irvine, Calif., (949) 261-1266
Gardens/Landscaping: Katherine Spitz Associates, Marina del Rey, Calif., (310) 574-4460
Photography: ¬ 2003 Derek Rath
Capacity: 60 participants, supported by 13 direct care staff
Total Project Area (sq. ft.): 4,500 (interior); 2,700 (exterior, gardens); lot: 100' x 140'
Construction Costs (excluding land): $866,000 (including site, construction, and "soft" costs)
Cost/Sq. Ft.: $192

Free to be
In striking contrast to many adult day-care centers, the new S. Mark Taper Foundation Adult Day Health Care Center uses contemporary design and color cueing to counteract the feelings of anxiety, depression, shame, and confusion typical of those with Alzheimer's and other dementias. "As a person-centered, model-of-care facility, we aimed for a homelike, friendly setting, with abundant window and interior lighting to avoid shadows, and ample floor, wall, and door visual cues," says Anne Zimmerman, AIA, of AZ Architecture Studio. The facility's design features and color cueing are intended to promote "procedural memory," or the memory storage of skills and procedures, with the goal of nurturing participants' independence in navigation, toileting, and other skills of daily living.

Preserving independence and dignity for seniors has been a maxim for the not-for-profit St. Barnabas organization, which has served low-income elderly residents of urban Los Angeles since 1965. Continuing St. Barnabas's ten years of leadership and dedication to memory-impaired adults and their families, this new facility, designed to accommodate behaviors of adults with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia, is sure to be a unique community resource.

"Although many adult day-care centers do not accept individuals with incontinence as clients, we can welcome such participants because of our 'spa-level' bathing services. We also open those services to family members for home hygiene training by our physical and occupational therapists," says Executive Director of St. Barnabas Senior Services Martha Spinks. She adds, "Our staff members mirror the cultural and ethnic diversity of our community, and they are fluent in at least a half-dozen languages altogether. Their relationships with families have created a continuum of care by which staff members, through a wide variety of social and home health services, can better identify those with early-stage memory impairments."

The building is of simple form and modular construction, but the contemporary, colorful, and geometric exterior finishing masks that look and feel, providing a playful-looking and easily recognizable building.

Among the features of the center are the fully handicapped-accessible site, ample windows to introduce maximum daylight into the building, soft interior lighting, and perforated window blinds designed to minimize glare. The interior includes social and physical therapy spaces that emphasize home activities, as well as computer stations, a kitchen area, bathrooms, and a bathing suite.

The gardens extend seamlessly from the building to encourage their use. Featured are both a garden at the front of the building, which is designed for quiet contemplation, and a patio at the rear-intended for livelier, more social activities, with contrasting pavers, a special fountain, and fragrant plants and trees for sensory stimulation.DESIGN CENTER SPONSORED BY: