Skovparken Plejecenter: A worthy last home

Photo: Helene Høyer Mikkelsen, architect MAA

A safe, secure and homely environment is crucial for the quality of life of elderly people with dementia. Here, textured and warm materials play an especially important role, as does functionality. For example, Troldtekt acoustic panels have been successfully combined with an advanced ceiling hoist track system.

The number of senior citizens is growing, as is the need for suitable housing capable of meeting the current and potential future needs of elderly people in later life.

One such care home is Skovparken Plejecenter in Ølgod. Here, documented sustainable materials, a carefully matched colour scheme, natural daylight and good acoustics are some of the key ingredients when designing for elderly people with dementia.

Skovparken Plejecenter consists of 32 assisted-living units for people with advanced dementia and is divided into four individual housing clusters linked by a central intersection. The care home was designed by RUM, which has many years of experience with health architecture and in-depth knowledge of the importance of architecture for people with dementia, their relatives and the staff on site.

“How do you ensure a homely feeling, safety and security for the residents and their relatives, while at the same time creating efficient workflows for the staff? We’re faced with this question every time we design for dementia, because no two places are the same,” says Claus Jensen, a partner and architect at RUM. He continues:

“To identify the best solution for Skovparken, we held a number of workshops with users of the care home, including relatives, staff and the municipality’s local management team, before we began work on the drawings. This was to ensure we developed the right building for the users and the area.”


Close to nature

One of the things Claus Jensen highlights as being extremely important is that the architecture must relate to the site and its surroundings. In the case of Skovparken: the surrounding fields, open spaces and old farm buildings, which all played a central role in the design and resulted in very special architecture – indoors and outdoors.

“The wide-open spaces nudged us towards traditional architecture with large, elongated building carcases and saddle roofs – but combined with new elements. Among other things, it was important to draw daylight into the rooms with large skylights that allow the residents to clearly experience of the seasons and the changing weather,” Claus comments.

The special design of Skovparken wholeheartedly embraces the natural world outside. Between each housing cluster small unique courtyards have been created, and over time the surrounding greenery will also grow to complement the building’s natural roof structure and facades consisting of brick, clay tiles and wood cladding. This will create attractive outdoor spaces that invite both movement and contemplation – two crucial elements for the physical and mental well-being of residents.

“People with dementia are a very differentiated target group. Some may be loud and outwardly expressive, while others are quieter and more introverted. The design of Skovparken seeks to accommodate both. An oasis, both outdoors and indoors.”

Photo: Helene Høyer Mikkelsen, architect MAA

Focus on acoustics, aesthetics and practicality

In addition to the naturalness of the outdoor areas, the interior design, too, matters greatly for the well-being of the residents, their relatives and staff. However, a delicate balance must be struck between creating a safe, secure and homely environment for the residents and efficient workflows for the staff.

“When building for dementia, there are many target groups to take into account, because it has to be someone’s home and someone else’s workplace at the same time. And where people with dementia and their relatives may need things to feel safe and familiar, the staff often have very practical needs. We have tried to combine the two,” Claus explains. He elaborates:

“The choice of materials is hugely significant for the architecture as a whole. For example, we have used Troldtekt acoustic panels in natural wood on the ceilings in both the communal lounges and the flats. The tactile surface adds warmth to the building and somewhat mitigates the institutional feel. At the same time, good acoustics are essential in a building that must accommodate many activities and a diverse group of residents.

However, the acoustic panels not only improve the soundscape. At Skovparken, the Troldtekt ceilings have also been used to conceal the rails for the ceiling hoists found in all the flats. By lowering the ceilings approximately 15 centimetres, RUM has successfully integrated an aid into the building design itself without compromising function in any way. Thus, the acoustic panels take on an acoustic, aesthetic and practical function as a unifying ceiling surface.

FACTS: About Skovparken Plejecenter in Ølgod

  • The first residents moved in in 2021

  • Skovparken Plejecenter covers 3,020 square metres and consists of 32 assisted-living units plus service areas, including six daycare places

There are 11 specialist contracts for the project with the Municipality of Varde as the client.