Southington Care Center Memory Care Renovations
Architecture firm: Amenta Emma Architects
Owner: Southington Care Center / Hartford Healthcare Senior Services
Location: Harford, Connecticut
This project demonstrates that even small renovations can result in serious impact, especially when designing for seniors. Though just 1,620 square feet in size, the Southington Care Center’s nurses’ station has transformed into an effective and stimulating environment for the center’s residents and staff.
Southington Care Center is a nonprofit 130-bed skilled rehabilitation and long-term nursing facility. It is home to about 65 residents who are living with different stages of dementia. The previous nurses’ station was anchored by an unfriendly and institutional desk where staff monitored patients and charted their care. The area lacked natural light and was confusing to residents, who were often parked in wheelchairs surrounding the desk.
"The design team opened up the common area, still providing spaces for storage and a landing area for staff. A highly decorative CNC screen provided a design feature but also a screen for privacy between staff and resident, not impeding sight lines for safety."- Jury Comment
The design team was challenged to re-envision the space as a place for resident engagement. To do so, it opened the space up and inserted a series of cascading areas, including a smaller and friendlier nurses’ station, an activity room with a fireplace and large-screen television, and an outdoor terrace that floods the space with natural light. The nurses’ station, now disguised behind a custom CNC-milled privacy panel, still allows staff to keep an eye on residents. Natural light is supplemented with wraparound LED fixtures. The team also tucked lighting into the handrails that run through the space, creating higher contrast for residents and imbuing the corridor with pleasant illumination.
“The design team opened up the common area, still providing spaces for storage and a landing area for staff. A highly decorative CNC screen provided a design feature but also a screen for privacy between staff and resident, not impeding sight lines for safety,” noted the jury. “Details within the space promote socialization, therapy, and thoughtful interaction not only with each other but the space itself.”
"Details within the space promote socialization, therapy, and thoughtful interaction not only with each other but the space itself."- Jury Comment
Outside, a 940-square-foot terrace is topped with a canvas canopy that provides better protection than earlier table umbrellas. Artificial turf, which was rigorously tested to ensure it could accommodate wheelchairs and walkers, was a low-maintenance choice for flooring. A privacy fence covered with artificial greenery rings the terrace, and elevated garden beds help strengthen residents’ connection with nature.
In the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, when visitors were not allowed into care centers, the renovated terrace remained a place for familial connection. Staff regularly brought residents out to the terrace to see their family members in the parking lot. Those outdoor visits proved invaluable in raising the spirits of residents and their loved ones.