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Dementia design ‘woefully behind’: ADI

Drastically improved dementia design in the built environment is needed across the world, according to Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI), which is calling on governments and multilateral bodies to overtly recognise dementia as a disability.

The call came with the launch of ADI’s two-volume World Alzheimer Report 2020: Design, Dignity, Dementia; Dementia-Related Design And The Built Environment, on Monday 21 September – World Alzheimer’s Day.

According to ADI, “most countries are woefully behind” in terms of making the built environment accessible for those living with dementia. It describes dementia design in the built environment as “30 years’ behind the physical disabilities movement”.

“We need to apply design guidelines and principles for people living with dementia in the same way as design guidelines are provided for people living with a physical disability,” says ADI’s Chief Executive, Paola Barbarino.

Co-author of the report, Professor Richard Fleming, says that dementia design is needed urgently, and our knowledge of how to do it has grown over the years.

“The rising number of people living with dementia requires that their needs are considered at the beginning of every building project that is likely to be used by elderly people. Dementia design should never be an afterthought,” he said.

The wide-ranging publication was written by Professor Fleming (University of Wollongong, Australia), Dr John Zeisel (author and founder of The Hearthstone Institute and I’m Still Here Foundation, US) and Kirsty Bennet (author and architect, Australia), along with a long list of contributors from around the world, and covers design progress to date, best practice, pioneers and innovators, design principles, designing for culture and context, the importance of including people with dementia in every stage of the design process, education and training, and the role of design during the pandemic and beyond.

The report compares against progress made in the physical disabilities movement and demands the same progress is now made in design solutions for people living with dementia. It calls for design solutions to be included in national governments’ responses to dementia, including in their national plans, recognising design as a vital, non-pharmacological intervention.

ADI has made a series of commitments in the report’s eight recommendations about actions it will take to drive forward this issue: for example, ADI will facilitate discussions on the development and adoption of a common set of design principles; it will work with other advocacy groups for the recognition of dementia as a disability, and call for more overt and considered inclusion of dementia-related design as a non-pharmacological intervention to be included in national dementia plans.

Volume 2 is entirely made up of case studies (84 in total) and includes examples from 27 countries, in a wide range of contexts, including home/domestic settings, day and residential care, hospitals and public buildings and spaces.

ADI has also released a series of eight interviews – with innovators, pioneers, architects and researchers (such as Margaret Calkins) – each talking about designing spaces for and with people living with dementia (and also featured in the report).

The report is available to download, and the videos to view, on ADI’s website at www.alz.co.uk/research/world-report-2020.

Professor Richard Fleming

Kirsty Bennett

Dr John Zeisel

Paola Barbarino
ADI CEO

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