Design School opens minds to complexity of dementia

The recently released World Alzheimer Report 2020: Design, Dignity, Dementia is an extensive analysis of dementia-related design and the built environment.

The report calls for governments across the globe to embed design guidelines and principles in their national dementia responses.

One of several recommendations from the report outlines the need for universities and schools involved in teaching design and architecture to include designing for people living with dementia in their educational program.

Within the report, education and training on design for people living with dementia are considered essential to raising awareness about the benefits of good design and improving quality of life.

In addition to raising awareness, research, training, and education facilitates the translation of knowledge into practice through agreement of what knowledge is relevant and applicable, it’s adoption into practice, and embedding into policies, textbooks and ultimately legislation.

With a commitment to this, the chapter titled “Education and training” captures case studies from Australia, Canada, UK, Japan, Singapore, and the USA.

Crucially, the article from HammondCare’s Dementia Centre “The Dementia Centre’s Design Schools – reaching the influences of quality of life in residential aged care,” highlights that although the functionality of the design for the person with dementia is important the philosophy or model of care that supports the design is equally important.

“If people understand the aims and purpose of the building and how their design impacts the end-user it is much more likely to have a good outcome,” says author, A/Prof Colm Cunningham,

Drawn from experts in design for people with dementia including Prof. Mary Marshall and Dr Stephen Judd, the course also includes the experiences of people living with dementia, latest evidence and research, trends, case studies and our own experiences in and with residential care design.

“Designers and architects may not have an understanding or experience of dementia, while care managers and clinicians may lack knowledge of how a good design can support running of the care home and improve quality of life,” explains Colm.

It is this group that “The Dementia Centre’s International Design School” benefits.

“The focus of the school is to open people’s minds to the complexity of the experience of dementia, the difference design can make on people’s quality of life and inspire change.”

In its’ ten-year history, the two-day course has been run in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, and the UK. The courses are often commissioned by organisations as part of their design process and can be tailored to the requirements of the organisation and project. Small multi-disciplinary teams work together to share knowledge and expertise.

The course uses a combination of theory, critical thinking, and experiential learning with the use of different learning environments, as well as virtual reality to provide a practical experience of the design principles.

Variants of The Design School. The DeMEntia Design School offers people with dementia an opportunity to share their knowledge from their lived experience, with design experts and explore gaps and opportunities in design research and policy.  While the online course “Talking Sense”, which focuses on sensory challenges and dementia and adapted from the book of the same name by Agnes Houston, is combining with the Talking Sense book will be delivered online in the UK in late 2020.”

The report also showcases 84 case studies of building designs from 27 countries allowing readers to compare and reflect on the application of design principles. Hammond Care’s “domestic” or home-like model of care is featured within these studies thought the description of The Meadows at Hammondville, NSW.

For more information on the Design Schools visit

Additional information:

Access the World Alzheimer Report 2020

 “Free Download "Design for Dementia” by Stephen Judd, Mary Marshall and Peter Phippen