29 Designing for dementia

Lisa Pilley of Dulux Trade discusses how colour is an intrinsic part of any health-focused design project, and can have a powerful impact on dementia patients in particular


lobally, the number of people living with dementia is predicted to increase from 50 million in 2018 to

152 million in 2050, a 204 per cent increase. The cost of dementia in the UK is expected to more than double in the next 25 years, from £26bn to £55bn in 2040. However, the UK is taking steps to minimise the impact of this growing trend and progress is being made to help people to age well and live in their homes for longer, thereby reducing the pressure on public services.

As part of this response, an increasing number of commercial and industry thought-leaders are collaborating to unify their research in order to deliver ‘action- able’ insights, informing ways in which to create more supportive environments for those living with dementia. It is hoped that just by fine-tuning some basic approaches to design, which may include incorporating solutions that are cost neutral to imple- ment, designers can create life-enriching spaces. Perhaps even more crucial, these relatively small adjustments to design techniques are able to produce environ- ments that minimise harm to the occupants, where perhaps sight or mobility is impaired. What these groups all agree on is the importance of prioritising the avoidance of sterile or clinical environments, instead advocating homely and personalised spaces that are interesting and can inject a sense of familiarity and security.

Educational institutions are developing new approaches to understand the impact of dementia on occupants within the built environment, and the industry is seeing collaborative work across multiple fields to try and distill the insight into guidelines for architects and designers.

Examples of design guidelines include allowing for clear lines of sight and the use of colour throughout a home to help guide people towards specific rooms and reduce the risk of slips and trips. Increased natural lighting has also been shown to help people stay alert during the day (and to sleep better at night). In addition, using materials that

help with noise reduction can support a decrease in stress and agitation. When it comes to colour, the guidelines are slightly more fluid. Colour is a highly individual and subjective matter, but it does have impact beyond the aesthetic. While intense colours can work brilliantly in a big retail, leisure, healthcare or even domestic home environment, such colours need to be used sparingly in environments primarily supporting people living with dementia. Inclusive design encourages the applica- tion of colour to enable occupants to more readily identify different areas of the entire living space – balancing their needs along- side the needs of their carers or family, and giving them greater confidence to move independently within their living spaces.


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