Bethany Didsbury

Didsbury, Alberta

Client: Bethany Care Society
Size: 87,000 sq.ft. (8,000 sq.m.)

Imagine your reaction if failing eyesight led you to believe that a floor was wet, simply because of the textural transition from carpeted surface to laminate. Behaviours among seniors that are often perceived as difficult tend in fact to be natural reactions to perceptual challenges in the built environment. Thoughtful design can minimize this phenomenon and that is exactly what the Zeidler BKDI team set out to do for Bethany Didsbury.

To gain first-hand understanding, the design team underwent a virtual dementia experience delivered by Bethany staff. They were asked to complete a series of simple tasks donned with Vaseline covered glasses, noise distraction headphones and rice filled gloves. The result was a revealing and deeply personal experience, which served to guide the facility’s overall design concept. A 100-suite Level 4 Supportive Living Facility, Bethany Didsbury includes accommodation for up to 25 dementia residents and provides care for seniors from Didsbury and the surrounding area. 

The building is designed around a covered central landscaped courtyard whose sky-lit ceiling provides year-round gardens for the residents to enjoy. To help create smaller scale, home-like environments, the resident rooms are grouped into four homes accommodating 12 to 13 residents each. Two homes become a neighbourhood and share dining and lounge areas overlooking the central courtyard. Daily home activities such as dining, relaxing, and socializing are accommodated within each neighbourhood and broader activities such as worship, therapy, counselling, and social functions are accommodated outside the neighbourhoods within public group spaces. Each neighbourhood has a secure outdoor courtyard that includes a wandering pathway with a number of places to sit, relax and enjoy nature. Access to the courtyards is through covered porches with seating, which allows more fragile residents to participate in the outdoors while being sheltered from the elements. Bethany Didsbury fits right in with the general look and feel of Didsbury while incorporating the opportunity for future expansion. Most importantly it improves the lives of local seniors through a residence that provides the care they need while honouring their individual physical, spiritual and emotional needs.