I posted the above image on Facebook a couple of days ago illustrating a lovely before and after shot showing how we had transformed an empty office and a dead space in a corridor into something altogether more interesting. These before/after shots are great at illustrating the complete change-of-feel Murals can provide. But somewhat to my surprise someone commented that this "type of thing is all very well but..... can residents buy stamps, withdraw money and...." basically do the stuff you'd expect to do in a Post Office? I was slightly taken aback at the comment and I responded that 'of course they can' and that if I use a mural it has to be part of a real experience.
Having given it some thought it dawned on me that it's anything but 'obvious' unfortunately. Looking around at what people have done in their homes and on the websites of some companies who supply Murals, it's apparent that Murals are generally seen as an end in themselves. So let me make something clear - they most certainly are not!
Our friends at Stirling love to bash new ideas sometimes and I remember a couple of years back when we launched some Mural designs that they were very vocal about 'false realities'. But they're quite right of course because of the way they were generally being used and they are also 'dead on' when it comes to warning about false realities. What's incredible is that there are so many examples where there is a lovely shop front (for example) depicting windows with attractive products beyond. But they're only pictures! How can anyone not understand how FRUSTRATING that must be!! I'd love to put some examples here but that would be completely inappropriate of course, so I'll stick to talking about the stuff we should do, rather than what we shouldn't do.
As a rule of thumb a Mural should only be used in such as a scene-setter. Never an end in itself.
Below I hope to illustrate both the whys and hows of using Murals. Baring in mind the area in question here is at the hub of a large, modern dementia care home, the space below is an all-too-common example of a dead, uninteresting, wasted space.But what a splendid opportunity!!
So we changed the feel of the area simply but completely by designing a mural to fit the space perfectly and create somewhere colourful and interesting. Having created the 'mood' we then introduced the 'reality'. The half-market barrow fitted the space perfectly and added a 3D element. This was introduced as a visual stimulant so self-service finger food can be displayed and the whole scenario serves to attract residents to its presence - and It works.
We added a post box (obviously.....or maybe it isn't!) and re-assigned the office window making it into the Post Office store front filling it with all manner of Post Office related paraphernalia. It took a little bit of trawling around but we soon had plenty to fill the shelves. The cabinet is illuminated and lockable but can be accessed for purchases when required.
Inside the PO we turned an existing book case which used to hold box files, into a giant Memory Box filled with Cafe related items. We did this by making a door to fit and glazing it with unbreakable polycarbonate windows. Some of the contents are particularly creative - the Chef baked some bread (I believe he had a very special recipe) which was then varnished to keep it looking fresh, and remarkably, it works!!
We added tables and chairs and relevant artwork to further create the right feel.
There's music of course along with other activities are made available within the room.
In a nutshell, we've taken an unused room and a wasted communal area and turned it into something altogether more appropriate.
So what are the key points and why have we done what we've done?
- We've added colour and interest, to a disused area and we've done it in such a way as to improve activity levels, mental/visual stimulation.
- We've created opportunities for interaction with an era-specific feel provided by appropriate music and appropriate images.
- Nutritional uptake has been increased and overall we've added a successful destination point to the environment which provides a reason for residents to be more active.
There's something quite crucial yet seldom recognised that I try to get across when I'm doing my work and I refer to this when I want to illustrate the importance of the surroundings;
When someone becomes a resident of a care home it's unlikely to be from choice and is most probably, primarily a move for their own safety. It is also a deprivation of their liberty. "Liberty" in this context means (amongst other things) the ability to 'go places' when you want to - the shops, Cinema or a Cafe for example. Typically, when we discuss the environment and Care Home Design we talk about making it 'Homely'. But this simply isn't enough.
To become something more than Homely and in order to really function well and be genuinely supportive, a Care Home environment should endeavour to become its resident's World and provide as much of the outside-world experiences as is practically possible.
As I hope the example here shows, it's entirely possible to transform existing environments appropriately and work towards making Care Homes livelier communities rather than dull, unstimulating, totally task-focused work-places.
If you have a space you'd like to transform, or even if you think you haven't, I'm happy to visit you with no obligation and lets see if we can come up with some great ideas for your environment and your residents.