Dementia-friendly design

‘Dementia presents differently for individuals and across the condition’s trajectory. This means architectural and interior designs must support peoples evolving needs to enhance their quality of life.’
– Magda Myszkowski, Interior Design Manager

Dementia-friendly Design

With an ageing population, dementia is on the rise. Deicke Richards is committed to working with aged care clients to enhance the lived experience of those impacted.

What is dementia?

There are many disorders that affect the brain. Rather than being one specific disease, dementia is an umbrella term for a collection of symptoms. Suffering from dementia involves the progressive loss of mental and physical function, impacting behaviour and the ability to perform everyday tasks.

The Australian Institute of Health & Welfare has found dementia to be the greatest cause of disability in older Australians. Dementia Australia estimates that in 2021 there are 472,000 Australians living with dementia and almost 1.6 million involved in their care. Without a medical breakthrough, the number of those impacted is expected to rise to 590,000 by 2028 and 1,076,000 by 2058.

Retirement living and aged care providers are re-thinking how to connect residential, health and community needs as knowledge, expectations and policy evolves. Diverse and inclusive communities with integrated access to care are the ideal.

Deicke Richards and dementia

Deicke Richards has a keen interest in dementia-friendly design. Our recent learnings include participating in a virtual reality experience of dementia hosted by Churches of Christ and Dementia Australia in 2019, and working with the internationally respected Dementia Village Associates for an aged care master plan review and concept development project last year.

Building on these experiences, our Interior Design Manager Magda Myszkowski completed an ‘Understanding Dementia’ course with UTAS. This provided valuable insights into the types of behaviour people with dementia display – and how environments can positively or negatively impact people living with dementia.

Our commitment to ongoing learning – and close partnerships with our clients, their staff and elders – informs the design of our aged care residences.

Over the past five years, we have completed a broad range of aged care projects with interior design elements informed by dementia-friendly design principles. Below, Magda shares her thoughts on some relevant project images.

Magda: This independent living studio apartment is easily legible and well-suited for someone who may be suffering from early or mild dementia symptoms. Access to good sunlight on a verandah provides opportunities to grow plants, prompting activity and movement. The verandah can be separated easily from the living area with sliding doors. Or it can be opened up for a more spacious feel. Kitchen storage is designed with obvious contrast to draw the eye.

Magda: Many aged care facilities incorporate salons, activity rooms, cinemas and more. These services and activities provide residents with convenient options and choice, supporting autonomous lifestyles and self-care for as long as possible. These spaces are designed to also be potentially used by the broader community, which can help residents feel more socially connected.

Magda: It’s important to make the most of opportunities to provide residents with a strong sense of connection to the natural surroundings – especially for those that are spending greater amounts of time in their room. This apartment’s floor to ceiling windows welcome light in and provide tranquil river views. Louvre windows enable the resident to have some control over the room’s natural ventilation, directing breezes.

Magda: Alcoves in a residence’s public areas can offer an alternative environment with abundant natural light; they act as restful set downs, a place to read, enjoy views or people watch. They also provide opportunities for incidental engagement with other residents.

Magda: If someone is suffering from more advanced dementia symptoms, a greater level of care is required. Some aged care residence rooms require in-built amenities such as hoist lifts and easy access to operating equipment. In this example, the hoist, tracks and storage cupboards are concealed in joinery elements. The woodgrain decors are durable, while providing warmth and visual appeal. Most importantly, this material has been chosen because it makes the aged care amenity less obvious and the bedroom more homely. The bathroom is directly accessible and clearly visible from the bedroom. Generous hallways enable easy movement and accessibility for wheelchairs or stretchers.

In 2021 there are an estimated 472,000 Australians living with dementia, according to Dementia Australia

Learn more about dementia-friendly design at Dementia Australia