‘Outstanding’ Exeter nursing home awarded Stirling Gold Standard for dementia-friendly environment


Staff and residents at Exeter’s Green Tree Court residential nursing home are celebrating gaining top marks for creating an exceptionally dementia-friendly environment. The innovative nursing home in Pinhoe has been formally awarded the Stirling Gold Standard, an internationally recognised benchmark devised by the Dementia Services Development Centre (DSDC) based at the University of Stirling in Scotland. The overall score of 94% is ‘exceptionally high’ and recognises the many elements of the design of the purpose built dementia wing at Green Tree Court that help to make every day activities easier for people living with dementia.


“When we first conceived the concept of Green Tree Court, we knew we wanted to do things differently, to really make a difference to the every day lives of our residents,” commented Michelle Gorringe, Managing Director of Lexicon Healthcare. “We understood that by carefully planning our spaces we could help our residents to live as independently as possible and with genuine dignity. The Stirling Gold Award blueprint set out by the Dementia Services Development Centre was exactly what we needed to guide our design. And we’re thrilled that our commitment to creating our living spaces with our residents in mind above all other considerations has now been officially recognised with this award.


“Our dedicated approach to make life for people living with dementia as calm and easy as possible also extends beyond the design of the building and its contents. All staff members are trained as ‘dementia friends’ ensuring they have a good understanding of what it might be like to live with dementia and can empathise with residents and their families. And we have a specialist, fully trained dementia care team providing a truly personalised approach to dementia care. This team, including David Barenskie, our Head of Dementia Care, has been instrumental in helping us to achieve the Stirling Gold Standard. I would like to thank them, and every one of our staff members for their exceptional efforts to make a difference to the lives of all our residents, every day.”


In their summary report, DSDC commented they were: “very impressed by the holistic dementia-friendly approach Green Tree Court has taken to providing a well designed dementia-friendly development.”


Some of the practical features for people living with dementia include using colour to clearly mark out key items like the toilet or doors. And there are smaller touches, like putting photos of on-duty staff up, so residents know why that person is there. Other dementia friendly design elements include:

  • Giving each private bedroom its own individually coloured door to make it easier to identify
  • Using the same colour on wall and door for high-risk doors, like doors to stairs. This means they blend into the wall which can reduce the chances of an individual opening them
  • Using colours such as red and gold, which research suggests can be stimulating to people with dementia, in some areas and relaxing pastel shades in others
  • Setting up personalised memory boxes outside each room. These make it easier for each resident to locate their room
  • Signs are large and clear so they are simple to read.


“Dementia is on the increase with more and more people being diagnosed each year,” added David Barenskie, Green Tree Court’s Head of Dementia Care. “With no cure, the key to managing the illness, and helping people to live well with the disease for longer, is through understanding the challenges it can bring. When we understand the different effects that dementia can have on our ability to do every day things, we can make subtle changes to the environment and the way we interact that can make a big difference.


“Finding your way around a building can be physically and mentally tricky when you’re living with dementia. Sensory, mobility and cognitive impairments as a result of the disease can all make it harder to navigate. And that can result in frustration and distress. Well-designed surroundings, which have taken into account the impairments of people living with dementia, can make a real difference and help individuals to enjoy a better quality of life for longer. Creating a calm environment that is safe and easy for people with dementia to live in is part of our person-centred, holistic approach to care.”


Green Tree Court was officially opened in 2014 and has 68 rooms, including a specialist dementia care wing. It aims to provide a luxurious living experience and has an award-winning kitchen and is set in beautifully landscaped grounds.


This is not the only award for this innovative Exeter care home. Green Tree Court also holds a BREAMM Gold Standard for environmental sustainability and is rated as ‘outstanding’ by the Care Quality Commission.


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