‘Ground-breaking’ tool created to support design of dementia-friendly spaces

Lesley Palmer

EXPERTS from the University of Stirling have created a new tool designed to help make homes, premises and public places more accessible to an ageing population and those living with dementia.

The Environments for Ageing and Dementia Design Assessment Tool (EADDAT) combines research on designing for cognitive change with the expertise of architects based at the university’s Dementia Services Development Centre (DSDC). It replaces DSDC’s Dementia Design Audit Tool, first developed in 2008, which has influenced the design of care buildings worldwide.

Following successful trials by Transport for London and Kirklees Council, EADDAT is now available to those seeking to make homes, restaurants, cafes and public buildings more accessible.

Lesley Palmer, chief architect at DSDC, said, “Two thirds of people with dementia in the UK live at home, in their community and it is a requirement that supermarkets, pharmacies, and other public places make reasonable adjustments to enable everyone to user their facilities. Research has demonstrated that dementia design can sustain independence and support quality of life for people with dementia.

“Additionally, research tells us that age-friendly environments can help foster healthy and active ageing by building and maintaining cognitive capacities across the course of our lives. This is increasingly more important as the global population is ageing.

“This ground-breaking new tool is designed to be more accessible and covers an array of building types. Whether you are a person living with dementia, a small business owner or commissioning a new care home, there is a version of EADDAT available to support you.”

People living with dementia perceive things differently. For example, a black mat placed in the doorway of a shop may be seen as a hole in the ground.

Ms Palmer added, “Age-related changes in our sight, hearing and mobility affect how we engage with our environment. For example, changes in our eyes impact on depth perception, glare and ability to distinguish contrast. An age supportive environment would account for these changes and use design to support its users.

“Similarly, cognitive change such as dementia also requires specific environmental changes to be made to ensure the user can remain safe and independent.”

EADDAT provides guidance on how the design, layout and furnishing of buildings and environments can make it easier for older people and people living with dementia to use places and spaces.

The Tool comprises three tiers – Tier 1 and 2, with Tier 3 still in development ­– with each one reflecting the scale of intervention required. Tier 1 is the entry level, created for those wanting to make small changes to the home or in a small business and is available free of charge. Tier 2 covers a wider range of building types and is suitable for people living not only at home, but for business, healthcare settings and other local organisations.

Each tier supplies a user guide, assessment checklist, case studies, and best practice examples. There is also the option to receive an official audit and accreditation from DSDC.

Kirklees Council is the first local authority to adopt the guidance, using it to develop its own dementia design guide.

Councillor Musarrat Khan, cabinet member for health and social care at Kirklees Council, said, “I have seen first-hand how DSDC’s design work can very positively impact on the experience of people living in a care home environment that is built using their design research, but, of course, most people live in their own homes in local communities. It is really important, therefore, that we apply the same attention to design to public spaces and buildings and to enable people to make simple changes to their own homes that will enable them to continue to live well.

“Whilst we talk about dementia-friendly design, the principles work for everyone. This is very much about inclusive design that works well for people at all stages of life.”

Transport for London has also included the Tool in its new Sustainable Development Framework, which measures environmental performance on construction projects and promotes best practice in the property sector.