Dementia Centred

By Henriette Laidlaw

November 17th, 2015

Dementia-Friendly Design for a Dementia-Friendly Community

The introduction of the ‘Prime Minister’s Challenge on Dementia’ in 2012 heralded a UK wide, public focus on the ‘dementia-friendly community’ with a target of 20 cities, towns and villages signing up to become more dementia-friendly by 2015.

Across the UK today, different approaches are being taken to make communities and cities dementia-friendly. This includes; increased training; improving awareness of and changing attitudes towards dementia; supporting carers and families of people with dementia; and increasing access to resources and networks.

Highlights from the Care & Dementia Show 2015

Here we have interviewed our Chief Architect Lesley Palmer to discuss some of the design principles that communities can make use of to become more dementia-friendly.

Q: How would you define a dementia-friendly community?

Lesley Palmer: At DSDC we believe a dementia-friendly community is a collective commitment by all community members, across all aspects of life to supporting people with dementia. This includes supporting the individual, their family and carers, encouraging community collaboration (across professionals, service providers, health & social care providers, faith organisations and community groups) involving the person with dementia in the decision making process and being creative and ambitious in our approach to creating a vibrant sense of ‘place’

Q: Can you highlight any core aspects of a dementia-friendly community?

Lesley Palmer: One of the core aspects of any dementia-friendly community is ensuring our built environments are safe, accessible, legible, familiar and distinctive.

Q: There are many services in the community which will be accessed by people living with dementia, do you have any advice on how those services can use dementia-friendly design principles.

Lesley Palmer: Let me use the GP surgery as an example. The GP surgery is a familiar place for us all. It is a public space (for use by the community) yet its very function demands a level of intimacy, comfort and familiarity similar to that of a private space, therefore it is important that the design of this space is enabling and designed to reduce the impact of the patient’s dementia.

Dementia design principles to utilise here can include the use of a slip-resistant matt finished flooring with no pattern and no tonal contrast between adjacent floor finishes, orientating and wayfinding clues to assist with navigation and use a high levels of artificial light to ensure suitable illumination of all areas (DSDC recommend twice the light levels of the current building standards recommendations)

Q: What about the less formal yet public venues in the community such as cafes, what can be done to make those more dementia-friendly in their design?

Lesley Palmer:  When considering a communal eating environment such as a restaurant, café or cafeteria the following principles for dementia design can be applied to improve the experience:

Ensure to provide a legible plan which positions the toilet within the visitors' line of sight upon arrival and suitable signage to help with cueing, it is also a good idea to limit the number of individuals eating together to a maximum of 10. This can be difficult to achieve in larger communal dining rooms or cafes, therefore consideration should be given to sub-dividing the room or providing more intimate, private dining areas.

Use tonal contrast between the seat and the flooring beneath, and also between the arms of the chair and the seat. This will help individuals to position themselves correctly above the seat.

Finally, try to avoid visual clutter. Providing an uncluttered cafe can be difficult where there is reliance on posters and flyers to communicate information. Consider removing redundant information to avoid overstimulation of the visual environment.

Thank you Lesley.

There is a great emphasis at the moment on dementia-friendly communities, if you are looking for more inspiration take a look in our bookshop.

DSDC also run the Design School, which include practical workshops on how good design and low cost changes to the environment promote safety, increase opportunities for independent living and reduce service costs.

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