Creating Helensburgh’s new DRC (part 3)

There’s something refreshing about the new dementia resource centres that are popping up in towns and cities across Scotland.

East Ayrshire led the way, opening the Kilmarnock Dementia Resource Centre in May 2015; the first fully considered resource for people with a diagnosis of dementia and their families, offering a relaxed and supportive environment, with volunteers and staff on hand for a chat. Aberdeen DRC followed in September 2015 and Helensburgh’s new DRC officially opens in 2016.

Alzheimer Scotland’s Deputy Director of Development, Joyce Gray had seen the proposed new resource centres as an opportunity to place service users and their families, at the centre of the design process from the outset.

In partnership with Glasgow based design consultancy Graven (, who are industry-leading experts in designing environments and places e.g. BBC Scotland Pacific Quay, Glasgow, Alzheimer Scotland have come up with a palate of colours and textures, and principles to apply when thinking about light, and how people move through space, navigating different zones and purposes.

           ‘Design doesn’t just provide the best curtains or kitchen or car or phone. It can create great architecture and community. Design delivers quality and fights compromise. It’s a tool that has a role beyond the drawing board, to improve other everyday processes such as governance or provision of services.”

Kevin McCloud, Editor, Grand Designs Magazine, Nov 2015

Helensburgh’s new centre sits comfortably across the road from Costa Coffee, among the usual high street shops and facilities. The large double window frontage gives a clear view of what’s going on inside from the street and draws you closer for a look. You could be forgiven at first glimpse for thinking that it’s another coffee bar. Tables, chairs, cheerful contemporary décor and the remnants of an earlier visitor’s tea, biscuits and magazine set the scene for somewhere you can stop by for a chat. It’s a winning formula.

The design team took inspiration from the ethos of Maggie’s Cancer Charity and the now internationally respected centres that the founder Maggie Keswick Jencks and her husband Charles Jencks commissioned.

     “In order to live more positively with cancer, Maggie and Charles believed you needed information that would allow you to be an informed participant in your medical treatment, stress-reducing strategies, psychological support and the opportunity to meet other people in similar circumstances in a relaxed domestic atmosphere.”

Like the Maggie’s Centres, Alzheimer Scotland’s new Resource Centres are a welcome beacon in the community for those living with dementia. They help to raise awareness and promote understanding, breaking down barriers and reducing stigma. Why not drop into one and see for yourself?

nicola cooper

Nicola Cooper works on the Alzheimer Scotland project Dementia Circle ( finding, testing and sharing good ideas and everyday products with the dementia community. She lives in Helensburgh with her husband and two daughters.


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