New tool to support the design of dementia-friendly environments

The Environments for Aging and Dementia Design Assessment Tool (EADDAT) consists of three levels

Experts from the University of Stirling (Scotland) have developed a new tool to help families, businesses and professionals make homes, buildings and public spaces more accessible for an aging population and people with dementia.

The Environments for Aging and Dementia Design Assessment Tool (EADDAT) combines the latest research in design for cognitive change with the expertise of leading architects from the university’s Dementia Services Development Center (DSDC). It replaces DSDC’s Dementia Design Audit Tool, which was first developed in 2008 and has influenced the design of care buildings worldwide.

Following successful testing by Transport for London and Kirklees Council, EADDAT is now available to anyone looking to make homes and common areas more accessible.

Lesley Palmer, Chief Architect at DSDC, said: “Two thirds of people with dementia in the UK live at home in their community and there is a requirement that supermarkets, pharmacies and other public places make reasonable adaptations to enable everyone to use them their facilities.

“Research has shown that dementia design can maintain independence and quality of life for people with dementia. Additionally, research tells us that age-friendly environments can help promote healthy and active aging by building and maintaining cognitive skills throughout our lives. This is becoming increasingly important as the world population ages.

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“This groundbreaking new tool is more accessible and covers a range of building types. Whether you are a person with dementia, a small business owner or starting a new care home, there is a version of EADDAT to support you.”

People with dementia perceive things differently. For example, a black mat placed in a shop door can be perceived as a hole in the ground, which can trigger fear of crossing the threshold in some people with dementia.

Ms. Palmer continued, “Age-related changes in our vision, hearing and mobility affect how we interact with the world around us. For example, changes in our eyes affect depth perception, glare, and the ability to distinguish contrasts. An age-supportive environment would take these changes into account and use design to support its users. Similarly, cognitive changes such as dementia also require specific environmental changes to ensure the user can remain safe and independent.”

EADDAT offers practical solutions and guidance on how the design, layout and furnishing of buildings and environments can make it easier for older people and people with dementia to use places and spaces.

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The tool consists of three levels (main image) – levels 1 and 2, with level 3 still under development – ​​with each level reflecting the scope of the intervention required. Tier 1 is the entry-level tier, designed specifically for those looking to make small changes to the home or small business, and is available for free. Level 2 covers a wider range of building types and is appropriate not only for people living at home, but also for businesses, healthcare facilities and other local organisations.

Each level provides a complete user guide, assessment checklist, case studies and best practice examples. There is also the possibility to get an official audit and accreditation from DSDC.

Kirklees Council in the UK is the first local authority to adopt the guide and use it to develop its own dementia design guide.

Councilor Musarrat Khan, Cabinet Member for Health and Social Care at Kirklees Council, said: “I have seen first hand how DSDC’s design work can have a very positive impact on the experience of people living in a care home environment who are involved with their design research was built. but of course most people live in their own homes in local communities. It is therefore very important that we give the same attention to the design of public spaces and buildings and enable people to make simple changes to their own homes so that they can continue to live well.

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“While we’re talking about dementia-friendly design, the principles work for everyone. This is all about inclusive design that works well for people at all stages of life. This design guide is meant to be used by all of us for everything from major construction projects to choosing a new doormat for our own home. Integrating these design principles into every phase of the process is extremely cost effective.

“It costs no more to use a dementia-friendly color scheme or flooring that creates an inclusive environment than to make choices that prevent people from enjoying a building or public space.”

Councilor Musarrat Khan, Cabinet Member for Health and Social Care at Kirklees Council

Transport for London has also included the tool in its new Sustainable Development Framework, which measures the environmental performance of construction projects and promotes best practice in the real estate sector.

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