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Designing for Dementia

Small and simple changes to the design of the built environment can have a major impact for people with Dementia.  There are a number of ways to make changes with little cost.  For example improving lighting levels within a building or making improvements to existing signage. It is also important to recognise that there may be more cost associated with other changes (e.g. replacement of fixtures and fittings).

Whether you are retrofitting an existing building or designing a new building the following is an overview how some key criteria to consider when designing for dementia:

  1. Ensure well designed accessible signage is provided throughout the building.  Signs should be well lit and provide visual contrast from their backgrounds.  It is also important that the signs are consistently located throughout the building.
  2. Ensure there are areas within the building that can be used as a quiet space for people who may feel anxious or confused.  This can be beneficial as it allows the person to overcome their anxiety and to continue to use the building. 
  3. Ensure all approaches to the building are well lit and lighting throughout the building is sufficient.  Avoid pools of bright light or deep shadows as they can be confusing.
  4. Avoid using highly reflective or slippery floor surfaces.  Ensure that patterned surfaces have been avoided and that the finishes have been designed to aid navigation throughout.
  5. Provide well designed seating areas which allow people to rest at various locations throughout the building. 
  6. When providing changing facilities, ensure unisex facilities are provided. 
  7. Research has identified that people with dementia use landmwarks to aid in the navigation around the building. Consider the use of landmarks in the building design (e.g. planting, water feature).

The list above is only a sample of access issues when designing for people with dementia.  If you would like further information on designing dementia friendly environments, please do not hesitate to contact us on 01-4151285 or [email protected].