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Dementia-Supportive Environments: Considerations

March 2020


Understanding the personal abilities and unique challenges faced by aging individuals, especially those living with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, better equips design teams to create supportive care and living spaces. Changes that can be credited to dementia are noticeably different from the changes typical of normal aging, but both can occur at the same time:

There are currently NO pharmacological or therapeutic treatments that prevent or cure most types of dementia. Good and thoughtful design, however, can reduce the stress associated with declining physical ability, memory loss, and care provision.

Instructions: It is important to focus on solutions that maintain or improve cognitive function, facilitate the performance of activities of daily living, reduce behavioral symptoms, and optimize quality of life through active management strategies. The current literature on creating supportive environments for individuals with dementia suggests 12 design programming considerations:

  1. Integrate Memory Care: Internal Community
  2. Integrate Memory Care: External Community
  3. Reduce Scale
  4. Simplify Layout
  5. Include Destinations
  6. Provide Access to Nature
  7. Maximize Familiarity
  8. Prioritize Access to Everyday Items
  9. Regulate Sensory Stimulation
  10. Enhance Meals
  11. Afford a Spa Experience
  12. Personalize Bedrooms

These design considerations are further detailed below in relation with the most common dementia-related impairments. Use this tool early in a project, even before programming, to assess and determine possible client-specific issues, opportunities, concerns, and solutions. In the example below, the team suggests addressing a simplified layout to aid comprehension by designing with the “hallmarks of home.” The team has further annotated their ideas to better define what this means in the context of the project.





Click on the pdf at the top in purple to view the entirety of the tool