What about designing for people with dementia?

Building design and the physical environment has the capacity to optimise or impair independence and well-being. More research is needed but there is considerable agreement about key principles. Some practical pointers include:

  • Good visibility and carefully designed lighting to avoid glare or shadows
  • Use colour contrasts to assist in object identification
  • Contrasts between floor and wall help with spatial awareness
  • Floor covering should be soft and non-slip to reduce noise and risk of falls
  • Patterned carpets and changes in floor colour risk being mistaken for obstacles
  • Personalise entrances and properties
  • Ensure that the use/meaning of spaces are clear
  • Use variety, artifacts and other aspects of interior design to aid orientation
  • Provide safe places to walk and avoid dead ends
  • Use virtual rather than actual barriers
  • Ensure taps, handles etc are easy to operate

The Design of Housing for People with dementia (opens new window) - First published in the Journal of Care Services Management, this paper by Damian Utton uses two completed projects to illustrate how the principles of designing for dementia have been successfully applied to extra care housing. On the second page of this article Damian draws from Mary Marshall's work to list generally accepted principles of designing for people with dementia:

Design should:

  • compensate for impairments
  • maximise independence
  • enhance self-esteem and confidence
  • demonstrate care for staff
  • be orientating and understandable
  • reinforce personal identity
  • welcome relatives and the local community
  • allow the control of stimuli

Design Principles for Extra Care Housing (opens new window) - Updated Housing LIN Factsheet No6 by PRP Architects covers at design princicples for Extra Care housing generally, and on p 9 focuses on design for people with dementia. It lists "Design Principles for Short Term Memory Loss":

  • · A pleasant familiar domestic environment
  • · Domesticity in scale and character
  • · Space to be surrounded by personal possessions
  • · A simple, easily comprehensible layout
  • · Visual accessibility, key vistas, open plan, etc
  • · Visual cues; personalising entrances, use of colour, artwork etc
  • · Small scale living - cluster arrangement
  • · A plan to facilitate wandering
  • · Elimination of 'dead-end' corridors
  • · Security
  • · Appropriate garden/amenity provision
  • · Integration with the community

Dementia and Serious Sight Loss (opens new window) - Well-designed lighting which avoids both glare and shadows is important both to people with dementia and those with impaired vision. Sometimes people have both. These papers by the Thomas Pocklington Trust outline findings from research. They contain suggestions for environmental adaptations to help address some of the problems experienced by those with both conditions.

Design of the Built Environment (opens new window) - Page 47 of the HDRC literature review outlines messages from the current evidence

Designing and Adapting the Living Environment for People with Dementia (opens new window) -These presentations were made in 2006. Architect, Jon Polley describes the design features of Shore Green Extra Care for people with dementia and what he might have done differently. Sylvia Cox, independent dementia consultant outlines the general principles that apply to designing environments for people with dementia.

Designing for Dementia (opens new window) - In this presentation made in November 2005, Judith Torrington from the University of Sheffield School of Architecture uses colourful photographs with captions to illustrate key principles in designing for dementia.

Very sheltered housing for people with dementia (opens new window) - These 2007 presentations by Helen Joy from Brunelcare show photographs of key design features at a number of extra care and shared housing developments intended to meet the needs of people with dementia. They also outline some of the wider issues and challenges, and Brunelcare's approach to addressing them.

The Housing our Ageing Population Panel for Innovation (HAPPI) Report (opens new window) - Gradmann Haus in Stuttgart is a specialist nursing home for people with dementia which incorporates some leading edge design features. On page 25 of the HAPPI report is a Case study 13 of Gradmann Haus.

Neighbourhoods for Life (opens new window) - This checklist by the Housing Corporation and Oxford Centre for Sustainable Development (2004) gives a range of design recommendations to help housing associations improve the quality of life of older people with dementia in the outdoor environment.