Designing homes with dementia in mind

A brick house showing small pane windows and window boxes with a green hedge in frontAnother useful design guide for including people with dementia. This one is from Aalborg University in Denmark and has a focus on people remaining in their own homes. The article discusses the similarities and differences between institutional settings and home settings to see which elements are the most useful. Of course, dementia-friendly design follows the general principles of universal design, so is good for everyone. The title is, Designing lifetime homes for people in the early stages of dementia and can be found on page 195 of the larger publication, Safe and Inclusive Housing for an Ageing Society, which contains the proceedings of a conference held in Rome in 2018.

Abstract: As both the number and share of elderly people is increasing in western countries, the number of persons with dementia (PWD) is also increasing. ‘Dementia’ covers more than 200 diseases of the brain, and symptoms include memory loss, difficulties with wayfinding and problem solving and changes in behavior. Dementia is a progressive condition. In the beginning, the symptoms are small and yet can affect daily life. At this stage, most PWD still live independently or with support from relatives in their own homes. As the symptoms get worse, more professional care is required as well as a physical environment adapted to their needs. Several research studies highlight important aspects regarding the design of the physical environment in care homes for PWD. However, due to increasing demand, there are not enough care homes, and more importantly, most people strongly wish to remain living in their own homes. This raises the question: Is it possible to adapt design solutions for care homes for PWD to ordinary housing and in this way postpone the need for a nursing home? This paper discusses options that enable PWD to stay longer in their original homes and familiar surroundings by incorporating recommendations regarding the design of care homes for PWD to upgrade ordinary housing into lifetime homes that are also suitable for elderly with dementia. This paper is based on previous research, partly conducted at SBi, on the design of care homes for PWD. The findings of the research will be applied to a specific case; a Danish residential area for the elderly. The discussion is based on a UD perspective (Lid, 2013) and focuses on whether the needs of the few (PWD) will be beneficial for the many. Results indicate that by respecting the needs of PWD in designing housing, this type of housing may be turned into lifetime homes. A broad group of people, including PWD, will benefit from this design strategy as it improves architectural quality, wayfinding, social interaction and the quality of life of all residents. 

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