Elaine O’Hanlon has worked in housing support services for 16 years with the last four years managing a sheltered housing service for a housing association.
The sheltered housing my organisation provides promotes sheltered independent living. Tenants have a range of varying needs which change over time as they become older. Our sheltered housing developments have communal lounges where tenants can come together to socialise. As an organisation, plans were being developed to refurbish our common lounges. We wanted any refurbishments to recognise the varying needs of our tenants. This included meeting the needs of tenants with dementia.
I was aware that I would benefit from training in the area of dementia design. I had previously completed the training to facilitate the Best Practice in Dementia Care programme for Housing staff at the DSDC, University of Stirling, so I explored the other training courses available and signed up to the Intersection of Dementia and Design course.
I was apprehensive about attending the course as I was unsure if the course content would be too technical or advanced for my needs and if I would be able to contribute. The course participants were from a variety of backgrounds, including architects. They had also travelled from all over the UK and beyond to attend. I found that we all had something to contribute to discussions and the range of skill, knowledge and backgrounds in the room actually helped enrich the learning experience.
The course has given me the skills and confidence to look at our sheltered housing developments from a different perspective. I initially attended the course to build skills in terms of furnishings and fittings, but left with an overall understanding of the built environment and its impact on people with dementia. For example, signage and how this can improve and support wayfinding.
As an organisation we have signed up to the Housing and Dementia Framework for Scotland’s housing sector, commissioned by Healthcare Improvement Scotlands ihub in partnership with the Chartered Institute of Housing Scotland and Alzheimer Scotland. The Intersection of Dementia and Design course has been instrumental in developing my confidence and ability to take the framework forward.
~ Elaine O’Hanlon
Older Persons Service Manager