Researchers Complete Vital Work in Housing Design for People with Dementia

Posted on: 02 March 2015

TrinityHaus and the DSIDC’s Living with Dementia (LiD) Programme at Trinity College Dublin, which brings together academics and researchers from the School of Engineering and the School of Social Work and Social Policy, recently completed a research report commissioned by the National Disability Authority’s Centre for Excellence in Universal Design (CEUD) to provide key findings and recommendations to support the Universal Design of dementia-friendly dwellings.

Their report recommends that by following the principles of Universal Design – combined with a collaborative approach to design – this will enable people living with dementia to live in their own homes for as long as possible, and help families and carers to provide the necessary support so that people living with dementia can lead happier and more independent lives.

The purpose of this research is to inform the development of Universal Design guidelines, to guide built environment professionals such as architects, planners, landscape architects, quantity surveyors, engineers and builders, as well as health service professionals, on how to design dementia friendly housing or to retro-fit existing dwellings by using a Universal Design approach.

At the recent launch of the report at the National Disability Authority, the Minister of State for Primary and Social Care, Kathleen Lynch said: “This research establishes firm foundations for the national research and design guidelines that will be launched this summer. These guidelines need to be widely disseminated and used not only by the built environment design community but also by people living with dementia, their families and carers when they are building new homes or retrofitting existing ones.”

The Chair of the National Disability Authority, Helen Guinan, added: “This is ground-breaking research not only in Ireland but also internationally. It will help to build knowledge and capacity within the built environment professional community to enable them to design, build and retrofit existing homes that will have a positive impact on people living with dementia, their families and carers. It will facilitate people living with dementia to remain in their own homes in greater safety and comfort.”

This project represents the kind of multi-disciplinary research being undertaken by Trinity EngAGE Centre for Research in Ageing and brings together issues around the Mind, Body, Social Environment and Built Environment.

The full report can be downloaded here. The full guidelines will be launched by the NDA in Summer 2015. The research team includes Professors Mark Dyer and Tom Grey from TrinityHaus, Suzanne Cahill from the Living with Dementia (LiD) Programme, and Maria Pierce, formerly from LiD but now in the School of Nursing and Human Sciences at Dublin City University.

Co-Lead PI, Michael McNamara Professor of Construction Innovation at Trinity, Mark Dyer, said: “I am hopeful that these Universal Design recommendations will encourage the HSE and Irish Government departments of finance, health and environment to reallocate scarce financial resources to enable people living with dementia to enjoy more of life at home, rather than having to move to long-term residential care costing anywhere up to €80,000 per annum.”

Co-Lead PI, Associate Professor Suzanne Cahill said: “It  is extraordinary that most of the international research on design for dementia has focused exclusively on the long-term residential care sector and not on home dwellings where by far the majority of people with dementia live. Good home design, drawing on universal design principles along with adequate support from family members and community services will inevitably help people with dementia to continue to live in their own homes and in familiar surroundings, adapted to ensure maximum use of retained abilities and to promote more independent living.”