Sabine L. Distler, Manager of St. Elisabeth
What challenge was the inspiration for your project?
We knew from the outset that we wanted to make St. Elisabeth a place which offered the highest quality living and housing facilities for elderly people. It soon became clear that this would require extensive renovation work, particularly given regional regulations designed to improve housing conditions. However our innovative residential concept and our holistic philosophy goes far beyond that.
In concrete terms, this means that we had to address not only legal requirements, such as those on physical accessibility, but also meet our own expectations, which were inspired the latest research on gerontology (the study of the social, psychological, cognitive and biological aspects of aging) and housing. That certainly was – and still is – a challenge. But a good one.
What was your innovation that addresses this problem?
The lives of the residents at St. Elisabeth in Nuremberg should be determined by them as much as possible. For us, it goes without saying that this requires a strong social environment, close contact with other people and help with day-to-day tasks.
So, our first question was how can we create living space that allows elderly individuals to determine how they live? We had to eliminate all barriers, and not just in a physical sense, such as removing obstacles in washroom areas using ergonomically designed basins and walk-in showers with grab rails.
In addition, we removed all visual barriers. We did this using a special colour and light system that helps with orientation, particularly for people with dementia, promoting their sense of well-being and making them feel secure. We also chose a wall covering that both looks great and has a special structure that enables visually-impaired people to find their way outside using recognisable features as a guide.
We have also focussed at all times on our employee’s situation, since our holistic approach includes them too. We want them to feel comfortable as well and be able to provide unhindered support and care.
What impact has Triodos Bank had on your business?
Having a bank that is so interested in the content of what we do is new to us. In addition to working together at a business level, there is a personal level too. Triodos Bank believes in our concept and that makes us feel good. And of course, it was Triodos Bank that made it possible for us to realise our project at this scale and with this level of detail which is so important.
This included the attention we pay to using environmentally friendly construction materials and paints, as well as finance. We also have a sustainable approach – ultimately we hope to set a good example in the care sector and improve it for the long term. This means we share the same values as Triodos Bank and puts us on an equal footing as partners because we want to make something happen together.
What impact has your business had on the sector you work in?
It is important to us that our projects generates a lot of attention. Both the media and the public see our holistic concept as a flagship project and have shown a great deal of interest in it. It has created a sensation and that is a good thing – for us and for the issue of quality and dignified housing for elderly people that we want to promote.
We have already become a model for other facilities and that is exactly the point – to change something. By combining functionality and design, for example, we are charting a course that’s genuinely unique for a residential care facility.
What impact has your business had on the community?
Our project is helping to change the view of residential care homes at the renovation, remodelling and construction stage. In other words, deliberately creating environments to make sure that residents can live on their own terms, making their own decisions, for as long as possible. Unfortunately, the reality is often quite different. Facilities are modernised and renovated without anyone thinking about how the individual components interact and how these ‘improvements’ can actually help people.
We also want to provide momentum in the social sector. We see great development potential in the next few years and decades because of the growing demand in the sector. Health care will create new interdisciplinary approaches – to architecture, technology and new media. Hopefully this will result in greater recognition of a deserving social sector.
How does Triodos Bank share your vision?
Triodos Bank wants to see positive change in society. This positive change is exactly what we want too. It is like two interlocking cogwheels. We live our vision of a better world by helping to provide a better quality of life and self-determination for people, and preserve their dignity in the process. We are building for a positive future just as Triodos Bank is.
We can achieve our objective of sustainability together with Triodos Bank. A sustainability that enables us, as much as we can, to address the social needs of the future.