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  • Author: The Dementia Centre
  • Read time: 2 min. read


  • Dementia
  • 05 July 2024
  • Blog

How to approach dementia-enabling design: 5 tips from an architect

  • Author: The Dementia Centre
  • Read time: 2 min. read

As dementia-enabling design is set to become more widespread, thanks to the new National Aged Care Design Principles and Guidelines, Jonathan Chew from Bickerton Masters shared some advice.

Good design can change the lives of people living with dementia. 

The cognitive and sensory impairments people living with dementia may encounter can affect their experience of the world. Applying design principles and techniques that take this into account can enable people to more easily navigate their spaces, meaning they can maintain quality of life and independence for longer.

Fortunately, there are architects and designers who’ve been thinking about these questions for decades, with a number of organisations leading the way and, in fact, setting the standards that the Federal Government is now advocating.

One of these is Bickerton Masters, an architectural firm that has been designing for the sector since 1997. 

Jonathan Chew, an Associate and Sector Lead for Aged Care and Seniors Living at BM as well as a Design Consultant for The Dementia Centre, shared some thoughts about how to apply dementia-enabling principles in residential aged care homes.

Consider your context

"Application of the guidelines for your context is really important. They are a really good foundation, but finding people and organisations who have history and experience in knowing different ways to apply them will be crucial. They will need to be able to adapt the guidelines to individual settings for the best results."

Start small

"There’s power in incremental change. A small change is still worth doing. We don’t have to adopt all of this at once, and you don’t have to look just like that other organisation over there. Every little bit helps, and every conversation with someone informed in this space helps, because it gives you a better idea of what other applications are out there. It gives you more agency to see what works for you and what you can build on for the future."

Think big

"The wider design world needs to know about this, the people designing shopping centres, parks, theatres and libraries. As much as we can do in residential care, the majority of people living with dementia are living in the community, in their own homes still. Good dementia design shouldn’t be limited to the residential care space."

Bring your community with you

"There’s a public perception of what 'good' looks like in an aged care residence. For a family member that might be something grand or modern, and not actually what good dementia design recommends. So, we need to raise awareness of what good dementia design really looks like, and communicate that to residents and their families."

Be an advocate

"There’s a lot of advocacy that’s still needed, and I think there’s still work to be done with the public perception of dementia. Dementia design is just one tool in the kit to get that advocacy and education right. When we get it right, we can show them what good dementia care looks like in the built environment, and it means we’re changing the way people perceive dementia, one person at a time."

  • Don't miss Jonathan's Bickerton Masters colleague, Millie Lupton, explaining how the guidelines were applied to a Ballina aged care facility at the upcoming International Dementia Conference in Sydney. More details:

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