What is dementia-friendly design?
Waltham Forest Housing Association (WFHA) chief executive Linda Milton guest blogs for CIH and shares her views on integrating dementia-focused design into housing.
Back in April, the Waltham Forest dementia action alliance group (DAAG) hosted a morning workshop to investigate how both new and existing housing can be specially designed to help those with dementia to age well.
The morning started with a tour of a new scheme in Chingford, which has recently opened and has a number of dementia-friendly design features. We also heard from London's DAAG project manager, Esther Watts, who gave us an overview the work the group is doing to make London a dementia-friendly capital city.
We are working to be a community that understands and supports dementia, and housing plays a very important role in achieving this. Our housing managers and officers are able to hear from people like Jacquel Runnells - senior occupational therapist in housing - who share their knowledge of innovative design for new buildings.
Some of the most important aspects of inclusive, dementia-friendly designs include:
- wayfinding (spatial problem solving)
- communal areas
Pacing the work
When it comes to redesigning existing buildings or focusing on new housing, not all of the work has to be carried out in one go. For example, at WFHA we wanted to include an upgrade of the lighting in communal areas, as well as replacement furnishings. However, upgrading lighting was too expensive for that time, and we decided to come back to the idea - but we continued with the other upgrades, which were really well-received. Now tenants can enjoy their new dementia friendly signs and soft furnishings, which is brilliant to see.
A personal touch
WFHA has trained all of its main contractors to be dementia-friendly, as well as the contractors who carry out cyclical works - they have now joined our staff and board as dementia friends. We want to make sure that all of our staff understand what it is like to live with dementia, and to use that understanding to support tenants.