By 2031, the largest segment of the U.S. population—the Baby Boom generation—will reach the age of 85 (Alzheimer’s Association, 2018; Crimmins, 2015). At this age, people experience the greatest number and most extreme effects of the normal changes associated with aging. It is also the age associated with the highest risk of developing dementia, particularly Alzheimer’s disease and LATE (limbic-predominant age-related TDP-43 encephalopathy) (Alzheimer’s Association, 2018; Crimmins, 2015; Nelson et al., 2019).
Currently, there is no prevention, cure, or therapy for Alzheimer’s or LATE (Alzheimer’s Association, 2018; Nelson et al., 2019; World Health Organization [WHO], 2018). People with dementia frequently experience an alternate reality and exhibit maladaptive behavioral responses; the use of physical and chemical restraints to control many of the most problematic and pervasive symptoms is restricted by regulating agencies. (See Appendix B for more detail.) Accordingly, the development of truly effective interventions required designers and care givers to “go into the world” of those with dementia to try to understand the nature of the messages that they express and effectively address the source of their behavior. To this end, environmental design can have a profound effect on the quality of life and care for older adults (Scales, Zimmerman, & Miller, 2018). The built environment can reduce the stresses associated with declining physical abilities, memory loss, and care provision.
Alzheimer’s Association. (2018). 2018 Alzheimer’s disease facts and figures. Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, 14(3), 367–429. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jalz.2018.02.001
Crimmins, E. M. (2015). Lifespan and Healthspan: Past, Present, and Promise. The Gerontologist, 55(6), 901–911. https://doi.org/10.1093/geront/gnv130
Nahemow, L., & Lawton, M. P. (1973). Ecology and the aging process. In C. Eisdorfer & M. P. Lawton (Eds.), The psychology of adult development and aging (pp. 619–674). Washington, D.C., U.S.: American Psychological Association.
Nelson, P. T., Dickson, D. W., Trojanowski, J. Q., Jack, C. R., Boyle, P. A., Arfanakis, K., … Schneider, J. A. (2019). Limbic-predominant age-related TDP-43 encephalopathy (LATE): Consensus working group report. Brain. https://doi.org/10.1093/brain/awz099
Scales, K., Zimmerman, S., & Miller, S. J. (2018). Evidence-Based Nonpharmacological Practices to Address Behavioral and Psychological Symptoms of Dementia. The Gerontologist, 58(suppl_1), S88–S102. https://doi.org/10.1093/geront/gnx167
World Health Organization (WHO). (2018). Ageing and Health. Retrieved from Fact Sheets website: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/ageing-and-health