Best Independent Memory Care Design 2022: An ‘Infinite Loop’ With Connections to Nature

Located in the outer suburbs of Greater Philadelphia is a memory-caring community where residents can enjoy the outdoors and walk as they please.

The community, Meadowwood in Lansdale, Pennsylvania, recently expanded with a new approximately 19,000-square-foot memory care building that added 20 memory care units and a host of new resident amenities, including an “infinite loop “, where residents can walk in the sun without bumping into barriers.

Although loops or circular paths for wandering are not uncommon in memory care, Meadowood’s allows residents to look inward toward a courtyard, providing an added connection to the outdoors when doing so is deemed important to the well-being of residents. residents.

The building, called the McLean Center and named for a generous donor, is close to Meadowood and its services, giving it a competitive advantage over other memory care buildings.


The community was designed to prioritize memory-care residents by eluding traditional residential designs, according to Eric McRoberts, a partner at RLPS Architects.

The team behind the McLean Center faced logistical design challenges beyond what was expected during the Covid-19 pandemic. Still, the community opened near fall 2022 and is ahead of its planned leasing schedule.

The infinite design and prioritization of light earned the McLean Center and project team first place in the 2022 Senior Living Architecture and Design Awards in the category of independent memory care.

The concept

Lancaster, Pennsylvania-based architecture and design firm RLPS has completed many different memory care projects over the years, but no two projects are the same, according to McRoberts.

“It’s one of the reasons we enjoy working in this type of building,” he said.

He added that the company evaluates each project about a year after it’s taken care of to see what worked and what didn’t.

“Some things that you think are going to be a great idea turn out not to be a great idea because they are perceived by someone with dementia or cognitive impairment,” McRoberts said.

McRoberts noted that, like many of his firm’s previous memory care projects, the project to add the McLean Center to the community brings some entirely new elements to the community. .

The project’s design team wanted to ease residents’ frustration and keep them engaged, even when roaming the community. So the RLPS and Meadowwood project team designed a building that resembles a figure-eight layout, a concept they dubbed an “infinite corridor.”

“Passing through the [floor] plan, or you walk through the space, every time you come to an edge, the corridor doesn’t stop,” Kristin Novak, RLPS Senior Interior Designer, told SHN.

Along the corridor, RLPS created engagement stations that allow residents to help them identify their environment and improve \ \ orientation.

Amidst the figure-eight layout are courtyard gardens and year-round greenhouses.

RLPS in its design was based on research providing evidence that gardens and natural light can improve mood and slow the progression of dementia in memory care residents.

The courtyards were designed in such a way that residents experience natural orientation based on time of day and seasons, replacing more artificial circadian lighting, according to RLPS.

“When you walk out of any resident’s room, there’s an immediate view of a courtyard or some type of green space,” Novak said. “And these patios have all kinds of growth opportunities, like raised beds for different plants, herb gardens, and flower gardens.”

The designers reinforced the identity of the different spaces of the building for the care of memory through color, interior finishes and works of art.

For example, dining rooms and living rooms are designed with high ceilings indicating that those rooms are for public activities, while private dining rooms have lower ceilings.


As has been the case with many projects in the last three years, RLPS and Meadowood had a few hiccups during construction, but nothing major, according to McRoberts. Challenges included supply chain issues, construction labor fights, and regulatory hurdles.

One of the biggest challenges came in the form of the campus itself, which had become crowded over the years as Meadowood built it.

“Obviously, they wanted this building to be connected to some of the other components of their health center,” Novak said. “So it really was a tough place to work.”

Meadowood, RLPS, and the construction contractor, Benchmark Construction Company, needed to work together to get back to work on infrastructure elements like utilities and staff parking that were disrupted by this new building.

Bend down

Still, the pandemic played a role. And, in fact, it continues to disturb the building. “[Meadowood – McLean] opened in September and they are still waiting for a couple of pieces of furniture that have been on order for over a year to arrive,” Novak said.

The community went over budget as a result of the pandemic, but that’s not abnormal, according to McRoberts.

The completion

Residents first moved into Meadowood’s McLean Memory Care Building in September 2022, and the building is currently ahead of its leasing schedule, according to McRoberts.

Its 20 units are 18 made up of single occupancy units and two units in tandem or pairs, which brings the building’s potential bed capacity to 22.

The Design Awards judges highlighted the project’s biophilic design and endless corridor as features that promote resident engagement and a positive relationship with nature.

“Notable are the greenhouses/potting rooms that allow residents to experience nature even during inclement weather,” according to Hord Coplan Macht director Cynthia Shonaiya, who served as a judge in the independent memory care category. .

The community’s garden-filled courtyard is attractive and relevant in all four seasons and its on-site lounge, lounge and dining facilities create a multi-use programming and event space.

Its proximity to Meadwood’s internal physicians and care team makes it a convenient place for residents to live.

In addition, RLPS worked with the culinary staff at Meadowood Senior Living to create a memory care culinary and dining experience that rivals other levels of acuity throughout the continuum of senior care.

“Getting independent living residents to want to come and eat in their memory care room is pretty special,” McRoberts said.

But perhaps the greatest testament to the building’s appeal to memory care is the fact that it’s not just memory care residents who want to spend time there. In fact, a Meadowood resident who recently moved to McLean had a group of friends from the senior community visit the memory care community.

“You just don’t see a lot of IL residents wanting to get into memory care to pass the time,” Novak said. “Usually they put out a memory care resident… so even though it’s about memory care, it’s designed in a way that appeals to everyone.”