Dementia and Design

Over the summer of 2022, Harris Irwin Directors Mike Irwin and Ian Holme held a series of staff seminars looking at dementia and suitable design responses.

These built upon decades of practical experience delivering projects for many of the  major operators within the care sector, plus knowledge gained from external experts including the University of Stirling.

Mike focused on the condition itself and its effect on the individual and their families, whilst Ian provided an overview of typical and appropriate design responses.

The key emphasis on the latter was one of “normality” i.e. delivering a home that is both familiar and comfortable whilst minimising confusion and, ultimately, frustration.

Areas covered included care group sizes and corridor length through to wayfinding and meaningful wondering, illustrating how these can assist in maximising the dignity and independence of the residents.

Examples included the incorporation of “destinations” at corridor ends and other locations around the building. The careful use of natural light and appropriate furniture ensures that the resident can safely and easily navigate the building via places of interest, without the frustration of coming to a locked door or dead end corridor.

In addition, the significant benefits of sunlight/vitamin D were explained, together with examples of practical / deliverable/ safe internal and external spaces.

The incorporation of safe external terraces to the upper floors was therefore explored. This included the illustration of various design options intended to maximise their physical benefit to residents whilst ensuring that their dignity is also maintained through the use of frameless glazing and parapet walls, whilst at the same time avoiding stepping points.

We feel that this and similar exercises are essential for our growing team, ensuring that the available depth of knowledge is shared across the practice, to the benefit of our clients and ultimately those in their care.