Nigel Hunston has worked in urban design, heritage and town planning for some 30 years but most recently as Urban Design Lead within a council. Nigel attended the DSDC’s Intersection of Dementia + Design Training in 2019.
Coming from a heritage and urban design background, and not really being involved in the interior design of buildings, I was unsure initially what I was going to gain by attending the course. Having said that, I have been involved in the design of housing layouts to aid those living with dementia to ‘get around’ and aid independency. However it soon became clear I was misinterpreting how my work was intertwined with dementia care. The facts and figures along with a ‘head count’ of attendees who have family members (including myself) living with dementia highlighted its prevalence. The informal nature of the course really brought home the challenges of dementia, and within the first morning I became aware of how internal design, materials and colours can easily transfer to the design of housing layouts and public realm.
The final day culminated in a walk around the town centre to understand how those living with dementia may interact with the environment, how their interaction would be expressed and how street layouts and materials influence getting about. I have to say it was really brought home when my newly constructed (and to me impressive) road crossing was not considered to be dementia friendly… oh dear, back to the drawing board! What is progressive urban design and road design is not necessarily good for all, and the course certainly makes you think.
In my heritage world, dealing with historic buildings does not normally bring dementia to the fore, but we have now started dementia groups in historic buildings which is a great way of helping. My council is rich in heritage and social history which aids memory and discussion. I have learned a lot from these groups about the history of the town! We are currently awaiting funding to convert two historic buildings in Huddersfield, applying the knowledge from the training course, and plan to hold group sessions to learn about the history of the town.
I can say to all, if you get the chance go and enjoy the course it is truly illuminating. I know for one it has improved my working knowledge and I will keep in touch with the DSDC.
~ Nigel Hunston