Designing Dementia-Friendly Environments – Karim Hadjri

dementia garden

One of the great things about working as part of a cross-disciplinary research group is the opportunity you have for exposure to research outside of your own ‘comfort zone’. Last Tuesday such an opportunity presented itself in the form of a research seminar led by Karim Hadjri (please see here for Karim’s profile, research, publications and teaching).

I found this seminar incredibly thought-provoking and I could readily see the policy implications and importance of this research in our aging society. I got talking on twitter about some of the issues raised in this seminar (@JDoyleCSD if you want to follow me) and received a lot of interest. Karim has been generous enough to let me share on this blog his own summary of this seminar. If you would like a copy of the corresponding seminar notes, please email me at


With an increasing number of older people in the UK living with dementia there is urgent need to provide a supportive and caring environment for these people to live independently and with dignity. The physical environment is becoming increasingly important for those with cognitive impairment and particularly people with dementia, given that it can improve their quality of life and increase autonomy and wayfinding abilities.

 There are examples of good practice concerned with the design of dementia-friendly environments; however, design tools and guidelines used in these examples are not evidence-based and are rather anecdotal. In addition, sensory and cognitive impairments are neither understood nor addressed in terms of design.

Nonetheless, there appears to be a “consensus of views” on designing dementia facilities which should, amongst other things, compensate for disability, maximize independence, be understandable and easy to orientate around, and control or balance stimuli.

This research seminar highlights current practice in design of dementia-friendly homes, and will summarise the results of a recent study that used the Dementia Services Development Centre Design Audit Tool to assess dementia facilities in Northern Ireland. The study established the level of compliance of nursing and residential care homes in Northern Ireland using the DSDC design audit. This tool provides a valuable basis for use as a briefing guide for designers of new facilities.

 Further reading

Karim has also kindly suggested the following sources for further information on this topic:

The Dementia Services Development Centre

Fleming, R. and Purandare, N. (2010) Long-term care for people with dementia: environmental design guidelines. International Psychogeriatrics 2010, 22:7, 1084 – 1096).

Hadjri, K., Faith, V. and McManus, M.  (2012) Designing dementia nursing and residential care homes. Journal of Integrated Care, Volume 20, number 5, 322 – 341).

Wimo, A., Winblad, B. and Jonsson, L. (2010) The worldwide costs of dementia: Estimates for 2009. Alzheimer’s & Dementia 6 (2010) 98–103.

I would also suggest that the Housing Learning and Improvement Network website here is a great place to start to understand this topic.

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