New video highlights importance of dementia design

Call for dementia design principles to be included in Disability Discrimination Act guidance

Experts are calling for changes to the Disability Discrimination Act so that all public buildings, including hospitals, are designed to help people with dementia lead more independent lives.

The call for action is made in a new seven-minute video, Designing for Dementia, which highlights ways to make the built environment more accessible to the 800,000 people in the UK currently diagnosed with the condition.

It features Emeritus Professor Mary Marshall from the University of Stirling’s Dementia Services Development Centre, who said: “The number of people with dementia is set to increase dramatically as our population ages, and appropriate design is the key to tackling changing needs.

“The world can be a very scary place if you can’t remember where the toilet is or you can’t remember where the coffee and cornflakes are. We know how to make an environment easier to understand and how to help people find their way and find what they want and remain independent.

“Every public building, library, GP surgery or hospital, and our own homes, should be dementia friendly and we need to change the Disability Discrimination Act guidelines to include designing public buildings for people with dementia.”

The number of people with dementia is set to increase dramatically as our population ages, and appropriate design is the key to tackling changing needs

Key design principles to consider include ensuring good lighting levels as most people with dementia are older and have impaired vision. Floors should also be of a consistent colour, as dementia sufferers perceive a change in floor colour as a change in flooring level and this can lead to slips and falls.

“We now have the knowledge and skills to create much safer environments so that people can navigate their way around more easily,” said Professor Marshall.

“This can now be effectively applied for people in care homes, public spaces and even their own homes, helping them to remain independent for longer.”

An example of this approach to design is evident at the University of Stirling’s Iris Murdoch Building, which has been developed to highlight optimal design interventions for buildings and external spaces.

Liz Fuggle, an associate architect at bpArchitecture, which worked on the facility, said: “People with dementia are everywhere, not just in care homes.

“When we look at a buildings we have got to be thinking of lots of different things. Can the person with dementia easily see where to go? And this comes to down to a finishes level. What about carpets and threshold strips, are they designed to prevent slips and falls?

We now have the knowledge and skills to create much safer environments so that people can navigate their way around more easily

“Maintenance is also important. So that staff are not preoccupied with cleaning things, they must be easy to maintain and easy to clean and these are the things we must be thinking about when specifying products for interiors.”

With this in mind, suppliers and manufacturers are also playing their part.

The video features Altro, manufacturer of walling and flooring products, in particular the Aquarius flooring and Whiterock wall coverings, all of which are hygienic and easy to clean, with no joins or gaps in which bugs can hide.

David Brailsford, a product development executive at the company, said: “Lots of our products go hand in hand and are generated by customer feedback. We have listened to customers and worked with industry experts and we build this knowledge into product design, particularly product development programmes.

“We will continue to work with specialists to stay at the forefront of design and are committed to continuing our work within the field of dementia and mental health.”

To view the video in full, click here.

Flooring and walling manufacturer, Altro, features in the video

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