It's time to take the lessons learnt designing for people with more physical disabilities and apply them to dementia design innovations.
Such is the advice of Professor Colm Cunningham, director of dementia care provider HammondCare's Dementia Centre. Writing in the 2019 Alzheimer Disease International Annual Report, which was released on World Alzheimer's Day (September 21), Cunningham says there is growing impetus to embrace dementia design across Australia's built environment.
He points to the progress made to support people with more visible disabilities as the foundation on which new initiatives can be developed.
"For example, access ramps into public buildings, pavement level access for public transport, accessible height cash machines. Strategic design underpins this progress, which is equally important in public spaces, care environments and in the home."
Cunningham admits that cost is a primary boundary when it comes to implementing dementia design, "but increasing awareness, providing advice and often introducing low cost solutions is a route to change."
These solutions are underpinned by eight design principles first established by Stephen Judd, Mary Marshall and Peter Phippen in their book Design for Dementia. They are:
- Reinforce personal identity
- Maximise independence
- Enhance self-esteem and confidence
- Compensate for disability
- Allow control of stimuli
- Be orientating and understandable
- Demonstrate care for staff
- Be welcoming to others
The trio also highlighted the key features environments suitable for people with dementia:
- Be small (in scale and in numbers)
- Be domestic and familiar
- Provide good visual access
- Reduce unwanted stimulation
- Highlight important features (for residents)
- Be unobtrusively safe and secure
- Provide for planned walking (access to safe outside space)
- Provide links to the community
- Provide opportunities for privacy and social interaction
- Promote autonomy and choice
Despite this framework, Cunningham acknowledges that innovation won't come easy.
"A key design challenge for innovators will be to span the varied and individual needs of people with dementia while creating spaces that are both aesthetically pleasing and that satisfy the functional and at times complex care requirements of the people who live there."
Dementia design is a growing consideration in Australia's built environment. The nation's builders must be prepared to incorporate these design assets into projects.
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