Design is about more than shaping physical environments and products. Creating well designed desirable products and spaces, that take into consideration how people interact with their environment in its entirety, can considerably improve the lives of those living with dementia. Innovative and intuitive design for dementia care aspires to keep individuals safe from danger, whilst allowing them freedom to engage in everyday activity, helping to enhance their quality of life and independence.
Enhancing the environment
Historically, dementia inclusive design appears overly institutional and patronising to the user, e.g. red toilet seats; yellow signage; “big button” controls etc. Practical designs don’t have to be ugly or intrusive. We should be aiming to create products that enhance an environment rather than make it stand out as catering for a specific section of society. Design can offer more advanced solutions to problems faced today, for instance, instead of adding pull cords for high light switches, we could integrate sensor technology into a room. Enhancing environments to ensure accessibility and comfort for all can make a significant difference to the mental and physical wellbeing for the people living in that space. It’s about addressing standards, practices and behaviours to change the way people living with dementia are engaged with in their homes.
Designing for the senses
Understanding the emotive reasoning behind why we like, or dislike using a particular product or space over another can really help inform design direction. Taking into consideration sound, sight, touch, smell and taste to create things that users want to interact with. This means analysing a mix of different forms, materials, colours and cues within designs whilst ensuring that we ‘design out’ the frustration in products to create designs that are intuitive to use. For us, it’s these little details that matter the most and we’re firm believers that if we can design products and spaces that people love to use, it will boost mental and emotional wellbeing leading to a reduction in stress for both people living with dementia and those caring for them.
Historically mainstream product design has shied away from creating products for the minority, due to concern over their financial returns, however if we were all to think a little more about intuitive, inclusive design that can cater for everyone, the scope to reach a larger audience then expands and this surely leads to greater commercial rewards and further advancements in design innovation and quality - and that helps everyone.
Ageing is a fact of life for all of us and yet it is often something which many of us struggle to accept. When you consider that dementia alone affects 46 million people worldwide, a number likely to grow further as life expectancy continues to increase, the need for us to improve products and environments couldn’t be more crucial. Through the use of inclusive design, we can remove many of the restrictions from our environments and products, without compromising on the beauty and functionality of designs desired in our youth. Simple considerations such as designing spaces that are accessible regardless of mobility, integrating smart technology into spaces or fitting flexible furniture to accommodate evolving needs could provide lifelong benefits. The nature of design evolves around the concept of continuous improvement - our challenge is to bring everybody on that journey with us.
If you have a product or service that you believe could benefit from our expertise please get in touch with us.
DSDC Design Associate
Wyn Jones is a qualified Product Designer and Creative Director at Design Reality. As an Associate of the DSDC, Wyn provides product design expertise to the DSDC, assisting organisations who want to understand how they can create dementia-friendly, innovative products and services. He is committed to driving forward projects to provide functional benefits to all users and abilities.