Small Touches That Make Dementia Communities More Cozy

We talk a lot on this blog about how to design communities from square one and some bigger projects to tackle. But today, we’re going to give you some tips on things you can do today to make your community more comfortable and cozy.

Why is ‘coziness’ important? When you say the word ‘cozy’, does it immediately make you feel happy and relaxed? That’s something people living with dementia need to feel. In a world where so many things are confusing, stressful, and anxiety-inducing, this is an important and welcome change.

First things first, we’re going to do a little exercise. I want you to think about a space you’ve been in at any point in your life that you could describe as ‘cozy’. Where you felt comfortable, and warm, and relaxed. What was it about that space that made you feel that way?

Here is one of mine. It’s the English cottage from the movie “The Holiday.” Here’s why I think it’s cozy, and how you can take elements from that to make a space in your community feel that way:

Via Columbia Pictures

It has a good balance of decoration between being sparse and cluttered. Clutter is the enemy in dementia communities, but cleaning everything up to the point of sparseness makes a room cold and lifeless. So first, declutter and get rid of items that are broken, don’t make sense in the space, etc. Then bring back in items like throw pillows and soft blankets to drape over lounge chairs and sofas. Will these need to get laundered often? Probably. Will some disappear? Also yes. But these are items that can be purchased for little money.

The space is small and not cavernous. We can’t change the architecture of a building, but we can make a spaces seem more enclosed and intimate. Create seating clusters where the seating is close enough together to have a conversation. Hang wall art or create a gallery wall on expansive, blank walls.

Via Columbia Pictures

It’s pleases the senses-touch, vision, smell, sound. Use an essential oil diffuser with relaxing scents. Include a bluetooth/MP3/CD player that plays relaxing music like soft jazz or classical music. Make sure the pillows and throws mentioned above are of soft, plush materials. Include lamp lighting or dimmable lights to make the space less harsh if the existing overhead lighting is bright flourescent or LED lights.

It reminds me of somewhere you escape to on a vacation or get-away. We posted recently about How to Use Design to Create Happier Realities for Residents where we talk about making the community feel like a cruise ship or some sort of repreive from their stressful reality. Making your spaces more comfortable can elicit this feeling too!

It makes me want to curl up and read a book. Include something to do in your cozy spaces. Include coffee table books full of photography that residents can flip through, or baskets of attractive magazines (home and food magazines are good ones to start with).

Creating these cozy spaces is going to be easier in spaces like lounges and living rooms, but you can still apply these tips to any area of the community. For example, adding artwork to the long blank walls of the dining room or adding a throw and lamp to a corridor sitting area can be nice touches.

What are some things you feel make a space cozy? Let us know in the comments!