Design Center

Charlotte, North Carolina
TYPE OF FACILITY/SETTING:Memory support unit within a CCRC
CHIEF ADMINISTRATOR:Miriam Stermer, Vice-President
ARCHITECTURAL AND INTERIOR DESIGN:Freeman White, Inc., (704) 523-2230
RESIDENT UNITS:Three 15-resident neighborhoods
TOTAL AREA (SQ. FT.):34,000
SPAC/RESIDENT (SQ. FT.):265 (per resident room)
755 (resident total)
COST/SQ. FT.:$124.42
Miriam Stermer, Vice-President and Administrator: “A continuing care retirement community, Aldersgate is situated on a 232-acre campus in an established neighborhood of Charlotte. Last year we completed a project that included the renovation of existing buildings (constructed in the 1940s) and the addition of a new Wellness Center, a 74-unit apartment building, 16 cottages, and a 45-bed memory support unit, called Cuthbertson Village.

“While we previously had a special care unit within skilled nursing for residents in advanced stages of Alzheimer’s and other dementias, Cuthbertson Village is an assisted living setting that is home for those in the earlier stages. The unit is divided into three 15-resident neighborhoods, with private bedrooms and bathrooms for each resident and a community kitchen, living room, dining room, and laundry room for each neighborhood.

“Each of the three neighborhoods is self-contained, which is convenient for the staff; everything is centralized for easy access. It’s also a wonderful place to work because it’s so alive with activity and living and spontaneity. We’ve taken away the monotony of the routine with excellent programming, which makes our residents happy. I firmly believe that when residents and their families are happy, the staff will be also.

“The design of Cuthbertson Village was truly a team effort between the staff and the architect. What we came up with was our own vision, based on our staff’s knowledge of residents’ needs. It’s critical at the design phase to listen to the people who are experienced at caring for residents.

“The end result is a homey, comfortable, secure environment where residents have many opportunities to experience community life. Note that I said ‘homey’ and not ‘homelike.’ We don’t want it to be like home, we want it to be home, and it is. People have enough losses to deal with when they decide to move out of their homes in the community. So we wanted to create a community for them here, but under one roof-an environment where they could interact with each other and have spontaneous interaction with elements in the Town Square and exterior courtyards.

“This design also makes families feel comfortable. They see that their loved ones aren’t going somewhere to merely exist, but that they’ll continue to live and have a sense of worthiness, fulfillment, and self-esteem in an environment in which they can be engaged.

“The key is that this is a living environment. When you walk in you hear fountains and birds, you see plants and dogs. It’s a totally interactive environment, of the sort we take for granted in our own homes. Family members often comment, ‘I wouldn’t mind living here myself.’ When I hear that, I know we’ve achieved what we set out to do.”

Topics: Articles , Design