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Last edited 11 Dec 2020
Dementia care costs families around £18 billion a year and affects about 850,000 people in the UK. The figure is expected to rise to more than one million by 2025. Two-thirds of the cost of dementia is paid by those who suffer from the condition and their families. This is in contrast with other conditions, such as heart disease and cancer, for which the NHS provides care that is free at the point of use.
In May 2017, BRE and Loughborough University announced their intention to create a 'dementia-friendly' demonstration home to help learn how better to support those living with the condition. Construction began at the BRE Innovation Park in Autumn 2017.
A 100 sq. m Victorian house will be adapted to cater for different types, and stages, of the debilitating illness, allowing sufferers to live independently by addressing their day-to-day needs. The tailored features of the converted terraced house have been designed by BRE along with researchers from Loughborough University.
Once complete, it will give developers, care providers and families an opportunity to learn about better ways to equip a home to help people with dementia. As part of Loughborough’s ongoing research, academics will also study how the features are used with a view to further improving ways to support homeowners with dementia.
The converted building’s features will include:
- Clear lines of sight and colour-coded paths through the home that help guide people towards each room.
- Increased natural lighting – proven to help people stay alert during the day and to sleep better at night.
- Noise reduction features – to lower stress.
- Simple switches and heating controls, and safety sensors in high-risks areas such as the kitchen.
"Most people experiencing dementia wish to remain at home, so the design and construction of new dwellings or home conversions are paramount. With this project we want to show how design solutions can be to be easily integrated within most current homes and communities to improve people’s lives".
Director of BRE Innovation Parks Dr David Kelly said:
"Our aim here is to show how homes can be adapted to better meet the needs of dementia sufferers and delay the need for care by the state for months or even years. Currently, the average cost of state care is between £30,000 to £40,000 per annum.
"Creating environments which allow people to live independently at home for longer could save a significant amount. That money could instead be channelled into research that alleviates the condition and reduces the emotional stress to the individual".
 First phase completion
The building has been adapted to help educate housebuilders, carers and relatives on how to better support those living with dementia. More additions and enhancements will be made over the coming months to support ongoing research projects which will identify key areas that could help the millions of people who are affected by dementia.
The building design has been developed around the needs of two specific personas (or avatars), Chris and Sally. The design narrative describes how the features of the building have been adapted to support Chris and Sally as they age at home. The prototype will be supported by further short films detailing how dementia affects them on a good, average and bad day, with actors re-creating the different stages of dementia.
The £300,000 project has been designed by HLP Architects and is based on the ‘design for dementia principles’ previously developed by Dr Rob McDonald (Liverpool John Moores University) and Bill Halsall (HLP Architects). Moving forward, the home will also be used to assist Loughborough University’s ongoing research into how the features are used, with a view to further improving ways to support homeowners with dementia. Other research partners involved with the project include AkzoNobel, John Lewis, Polypipe and ROCKWOOL.
Director of BRE Innovation Parks Dr. David Kelly said:
“It is fantastic to see the finalisation of this stage of this project. It marks just a small part of a bigger research programme which should help assist those with dementia and their carers. We have worked with a multi-disciplinary team from the healthcare sector, architects, lighting experts, colour specialists, and building physicists to develop a unique approach to home adaptation for dementia. Issues such as accessibility, layout, physical support, the quality of daylight and the reflectance of all surfaces have been considered.
"The home appears simple and straightforward, but every detail has been carefully designed to enable comfort, quality of life and the easiest and simplest navigation through the home for those with the condition. These measures will enable those with dementia to live at home for longer.”
See also: Adapting homes for dementia.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- A Home to Remember.
- Adapting homes for dementia.
- An ageing population - Challenges for the built environment.
- BRE articles on Designing Buildings Wiki.
- Changing lifestyles.
- Daylight benefits in healthcare buildings.
- Dementia and the built environment.
- Homes and ageing in England.
- Inclusive design.
- Lifetime homes.
- Lifetime Homes Design Guide (EP 100).
- Older people.
- People with disabilities.
- The cost of poor housing to the NHS.
- The design of extra care housing for older people and its impact on wellbeing: The East Sussex perspective.
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