Communicating design research

Improving the design of environments for people with dementia

Authored by: Richard Fleming , Fiona Kelly

The Routledge Companion to Design Research

Print publication date:  October  2014
Online publication date:  October  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415706070
eBook ISBN: 9781315758466
Adobe ISBN: 9781317636250


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There is unequivocal recognition of the relationship between the buildings we live, work, learn and relax in, and how we feel and act (Eberhard, 2006), with growing recognition of the importance of good care home design for promoting a positive experience for those who live, visit and work there (Innes et al., 2011). There is increasing recognition that care homes should not be medical institutions (Anderzhon et al., 2012), although there of course will be a need for medical supports as those who live there become more frail. However, the concept of home means so many things (to individuals, for communities and society) and the challenge for designers is how to create a space that serves multiple purposes; home for those who live there, workplace for care staff and a community within a community. Anderzhon et al. (2012), in their very useful book detailing 26 exemplars of design to meet the needs of older people, note two overarching principles that link these 26 exemplars: first that the physical environment is integral to the care being delivered and second that the design fosters a sense of belonging; a sense of feeling at home. Zeisel (2006: 74) highlights the importance of ‘multidisciplinary professional cooperation’ for the translation of complex concepts into designing places for people to live, work and play in and that are better suited to their needs:

Cooperation enables people who work together to achieve more than the sum of each working separately. Even when people are through working together to solve shared problems, something remains: a knowledge of the other’s discipline and point of view; new ways to define problems; an improved knowledge of how to cooperate with others.

Zeisel, 2006: 74

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