Design with people with dementia

Front cover of the thesis. Design with people with dementia.It’s not often that people diagnosed with dementia get asked what works for them in terms of home design. People with dementia want to age in place in the same way as others. However, this requires integrated and diverse living solutions. The only way to do this is to design with people with dementia.

In a master’s thesis, Kembhavi explains the background to her research and the research objectives. Using a co-design process she was able to identify three key concepts important to people with dementia: choice, integration, and service support. The process was not linear – many modifications and iterations were required to arrive at the final result.

To begin, the idea of aging in place was investigated. This inquiry created the first design challenge. That is, factors that make aging in place difficult. This resulted in the adoption of a user-centered design philosophy.  User-centred design focuses on the requirements and desires of users throughout the concept development process.

This paved the path for the second research topic: ‘how can people with dementia be involved in developing living solutions for themselves?’ 

Title of the thesis is, Integrated living environment for people with memory decline. Author Shreya Kembhavi, Aalto University. Helsinki city housing company housing was the context for the research.

This masters thesis covers a literature review, design methods, and an implementation strategy.  As with many architectural theses and documents, this one is presented in landscape format. It includes case studies with images and explanatory graphics. If you want to get the short version of method, the conclusion explains the background to the research, and how the research was done.

From the abstract

Giving people the ability to choose their own way of life has the potential to be an effective way of developing living alternatives for people with dementia. Residential services and spaces, engagement services and spaces, and support services and spaces are three elements that must be addressed through service and space provision to enable aging in a place of choice. A strong network of these elements in the area could potentially allow a greater population to age in place.

By integrating the serviced housing with the housing for other user groups, the thesis proposes a strategy that incorporates serviced housing as a component of the standard housing stock. The serviced housing is built on the three principles of residency, engagement, and support. As part of this approach, new services such as drop-in consultations for persons seeking advice, social spaces such as a cafés, and residential services such as a dementia hotel are proposed.

A branding strategy is advised to de-stigmatize and incorporate people with memory decline, and supporting services and properties for them into the city’s portfolio. This is an attempt to change an image associated with such spaces, into one that is inclusive and open to the community. The thesis with demonstration of the concept’s scaling and its benefits in the realm of living solutions for people with dementia.