The Environmental Design Special Interest Group from Dementia Alliance International

The Dementia Alliance International (DAI) Environmental Design Special Interest Group (ED-SiG) is a newly established international advocacy group calling for implementations of designs that respect the dignity, autonomy, independence and equality of opportunity for people living with dementia.

In direct response to the World Alzheimer Report 2020 on dementia-related design, we are delighted to bring this blog to you from Board member and Project Lead Emily Ong of Dementia Alliance International (DAI), who introduces a new Design Special Interest Group dedicated to promoting design that respects the dignity, autonomy, independence and equality of opportunity for people living with dementia.

A key focus of the group’s action plan will be a number of the core recommendations from the World Alzheimer Report 2020.

Environmental factors are recognised as one of the three components defining functioning and disability under the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF). These complex interactions between an individual’s health condition, internal personal factors and environmental factors influence how a person living with dementia experiences their disability both at functional level of what they can do in a standard environment and what they participate in their usual environment. They greatly impact a person’s quality of life.

Under ED-SiG, the environment includes all the surrounding things that have a direct impact on our lives, including:

• Natural environment
• Built environment
• Rehabilitative environment
• Communal environment
• Sustainable environment

The overarching purpose of the DAI ED-SiG is to provide expert advice on design and advocate for action by working together with global, regional and local partners. Currently, we have 30 members from 4 continents – North America, Europe, Asia and Australia. We are currently working to reach out to South America and Africa.

World Alzheimer Report 2020 cover

The World Alzheimer Report 2020

A unique and key feature of ED-SiG membership is diversity in terms of professional expertise as well as cultural and geographical context. Our members consist of clinicians in neurology and ophthalmology, researchers in both environmental design and architecture and other fields including gerontology and occupational therapy, authors of the World Alzheimer Report 2020, ADI and DAI members.

The ED-SiG Action Plan 2022 will focus on four of the recommendations in the World Alzheimer Report 2020, which are:

Recommendation 2: A call for more overt and considered inclusion of dementia-related design as a non-pharmacological intervention, to be included in national dementia plans, response to the WHO Global Action Plan on the public health response to dementia 2017-2025.

Recommendation 3: ADI, along partner Dementia Alliance International, and other advocacy groups, will work to give prominence to the arguments contained in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) for the recognition of dementia as a disability, and the consequent need to apply design guidelines for people living with dementia similar to how design guidelines are provided for people living with physical disability.

Recommendation 4: A call to all educators about the need to include designing for people living with dementia in the curricula of schools of architecture and design.

Recommendation 7: ADI will encourage national dementia associations to better inform themselves about the available knowledge on designing for people living with dementia, consider its relevance to their contexts and priorities, and advocate for relevant knowledge to be implemented by planners, designers, architects, care operators and developers.

We hope that ADI members will work with ED-SiG to implement the recommendations in their respective countries. Environmental design must be recognized as a crucial factor in defining functioning and quality of life and included in the national dementia plan.

Emily Ong, project lead for ED-SiG, said:

The greatest concern and fear is the feeling of being ‘imprisoned’ by the environment.

Our first formal project is a submission to the Australian Government, a response to ‘New residential aged care design standards – what is important in the design of high quality residential aged care accommodation’?

If you are interested in joining the DAI ED-SiG, get in touch.

Learn more about the Environmental Design Special Interest Group

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