Designing dementia-friendly towns.

One in 14 people over the age of 65 has dementia, which rises to one in six over the age of 80. There are many ways this disease can be managed for optimal health and enjoyment of life, including through architecture and design. Some urban areas are now beginning to design their towns to be more dementia-friendly so that people with this condition can continue to be as independent and active as possible.

In Aberfeldy, Scotland cafes, bookshops, the cinema and other public places are re-considering the design of their restrooms. Staff at the location began with dementia awareness training and managers and owners concentrate on ways to make signs clearer. This meant shorter signs in clear text, positioned at eye level. There was also thought put into other areas, such as how easy it was to move around in a space, the lighting, seating areas that were easier to get in and out of, and types of non-slip flooring. Good lighting meant it was easier to perform transactions and less overwhelming, while easier seating was a benefit for all people who need a little help getting up and down from chairs and booths. The town found that simple changes can have very effective results. In dementia patients, for instance, it can be difficult to differentiate the toilet seat from the bowl. Having two different colours for the bowl and seat made it much easier and less embarrassing for the individual to use. This approach was also applied to staircases, where contrasting the stair and floor colour also made a big difference.

Throughout the town, shops also considered ‘landmarks’. These are used to help a person with dementia navigate their environment. A landmark can be something as simple as a plant or picture. They could decorate streets and it would not only look pretty but help those with dementia! Brightly coloured doors can help shops stand out from one another, as well as adding to the overall appeal of an area for all generations.

When you first think of dementia and adapting for it, the task may seem overwhelming. If you can take it in steps, you may find that helping a loved one with dementia make the home more friendly is easier than you thought. Having spaces that are dementia-friendly allow people in the third age to experience the sense of community and independence which everyone deserves.