JDC Spring-2001 v3 - A Pattern Language for Designing Interiors for Alzheimer's Patients

PATTERN 6 - Tuning Spaces

The layout of furniture in a large communal space should accommodate small semi-private spaces as well as areas for larger group interactions. Flexibility is achieved by employing movable partitions, treated for reducing auditory and visual confusion. The large area may have free space in the center, with tables for artwork and small group activities at the periphery of the room.


Distractions due to excess aural and visual stimulation can keep a resident from completing a given task causing a buildup of agitation and confusion (Schiff, 1990). The division of areas into smaller spaces for multipurpose activities sustains concentration by eliminating distractions and enhances focused activity. The isolated chairs located in the corner to view the central area are provided to encourage participation from the solitary resident after he gets comfortable and used to the idea of joining the large group.   Using movable partitions also reduces the cost of constructing multiple spaces (Namazi, Whitehouse, Rechlin, Calkins, Johnson, Brabenber & Hevener, 1991). It has been suggested that along with inducing self-supporting behavior there is also a reduction in the cost of staff intervention time. The movable partitions contribute to establishing appropriate levels of stimulation that will help the Alzheimer's patient to differentiate between stimuli related to social interaction and stimuli such as background noise (Schiff, 1990), which otherwise may result in decreased social interaction due to the presence of a large number of people (Brawley, 1992).

Image reproduced with permission of The Johns Hopkins University, from The Handbook of Dementia Care. pp.H lll:10, copyright 1996. Stehmen, Jean M., M.A., A.C.C., Geraldine I., Strachan, R.N., M.S.N.Ed., Joy A. Glenner, George G. Glenner, M.D., and Judith K. Neubauer.