Memories of home: Dining room


The lighting steals the spotlight in this room. The walls of windows offer a flood of natural light that’s balanced with artificial lighting. Embedded in the crown molding is tunable, or adjustable, white LED lighting. With a control system tied to an astronomical clock, the light system uses GPS to identify sunrise and sunset and changes light color throughout the day to mimic natural sunlight. It also adjusts according to weather conditions, so if it’s a gray and stormy day, the system will give more light inside. “This is one of the most promising environmental components for memory care that we found from our research,” Pritchard says, adding that the lighting can help realign residents’ circadian rhythms to improve sleep cycles. 

Tables and chairs

Dining is one of the most important times of the day, but it also be one of the most challenging for residents with memory impairment to navigate if the space is overwhelming. Pritchard says they’ve built a subtle solution through flexible seating, which can be banked together for a large family style seating or used as separate tables, as shown. “It allows for a lot of flexibility depending on how the residents of that household want to dine and what works best for them,” Pritchard says.

Floor plan

Residents have access to a secured courtyard so they can go for an after-dinner walk. Within the four walls, the layout makes the dining room a secure destination. “No matter where you’re sitting at one of these tables, you don’t have people constantly walking behind you,” Carpenter says. Many dining rooms are adjacent to a hallway, and the constant passing of people can concern residents or make them feel vulnerable. “By having this as its own contained space, it’s still open to the rest of the household but feels more comfortable.”

Fixtures and finishings

The room itself has visual interest with varied ceiling heights and traditional details that help finish the space, including case work, crown molding and wooden brackets. The dining room is an appropriate place for those extra touches because dining rooms were often the most formal room of the house. “All of those are higher-end trim details that you would find in somebody’s home,” Carpenter says. “It would not be found in a hospital or an institutional setting, and these are the things that make it feel more like home.”

Breakfast bar

The breakfast bar is a bit of a misnomer because it’s used at all meals. “Our research and experiences have shown that the breakfast bar is the most popular place,” Pritchard says. “It’s also a great place to have a small group activity where staff can interact.”  Beyond the physical transition between kitchen and dining room, the bar serves as a place where residents can watch, smell and even help staff with meal prep.  

Read more: Memories of home

Image courtesy of Alise O’Brien Photography

Topics: Alzheimer's/Dementia , Articles , Design