Designing for Dementia: Creating Environments that Foster Comfort and Wellbeing

Lauren Di Pietro, Associate, Scene Architects
10th April 2024

Share this entry:

Dementia is an umbrella term for a group of diseases that affect the brain. There are over 100 different types of dementia, and each type affects each individual differently.

Designing for dementia requires specialist knowledge and understanding that a person living with dementia has a different relationship with the environment than someone who is not.

People living with dementia face a range of challenges, including memory loss, difficulty with communication, confusion, disorientation, and changes in mood and behaviour. They may struggle to perform daily tasks independently, experience frustration and anxiety, and require assistance with basic activities of daily living. Additionally, there can be social stigma, lack of understanding, and limited support services available, which can further exacerbate their difficulties and impact their quality of life.

Person Centred Care and Innovative Design

Person centred care and design recognises an individual’s unique perspective, preferences, abilities, and experiences. Fostering a culture of empathy and respect within care settings fosters a sense of dignity and promotes person-centred care approaches.

There is a body of research that understands the benefits of person-centred care in the social and medical care fields, but we have struggled to translate this into the built environment.

There are of course some brilliant examples of where this has been successfully implemented, namely the Dutch model of dementia care villages, and the internationally recognised work of the University of Stirling closer to home, but unfortunately there are many more examples of a lack of understanding and implementation of design for dementia in the care industry.

‘Dementia friendly design’ has become more of a buzzword than a well thought out strategy, and solely focuses on the idea of designing spaces that meet the ever-changing needs of people living with one, or multiple, disease(s) that we have already identified as affecting every individual differently.

How can we therefore begin to tackle the notion of ‘design for dementia’ if no one person experiences it the same?

Socialisation and Independence

Design principles aimed at fostering socialization within communities encompass various strategies, including the incorporation of communal areas. These spaces serve as focal points for interaction, providing residents with opportunities to engage in activities and create opportunities for meaningful connections with family members, caregivers, and fellow residents within care facilities.

Additionally, outdoor spaces play a pivotal role in promoting social interaction by offering environments conducive to casual gatherings or recreational pursuits.

Promoting independence and autonomy for individuals with dementia is essential for maintaining their quality of life and dignity. By empowering them to engage in self-care activities, such as dressing, grooming, and eating, we foster a sense of accomplishment and preserve their identity. Design strategies play a crucial role in facilitating these activities, such as organizing clothing in a way that is easy to access and providing visual cues to prompt the next steps in a task.

dementia design

Creating Safe and Calm Environments

Safety features in dementia-friendly design play a crucial role in enhancing the well-being of individuals living with dementia. Non-slip flooring is essential to prevent falls, which can be particularly dangerous for individuals with cognitive impairments.

Adequate lighting is vital for maintaining a safe environment, as it helps individuals see obstacles and hazards more clearly, reducing the likelihood of accidents. These features not only promote safety but also foster independence and confidence in individuals with dementia, allowing them to maintain a higher quality of life within their living environment.

Familiarity and Wayfinding in Space

Creating a comfortable and familiar environment is essential for promoting well-being and productivity. One effective approach is to personalize the space with items that hold sentimental value or evoke positive memories. Photographs of loved ones, cherished mementos, or artwork can contribute to a sense of belonging and comfort. Additionally, incorporating elements from nature, such as plants or natural textures, can help to create a soothing atmosphere.

Designing spaces with clear pathways and signage can support navigation and reduce confusion, empowering individuals to move independently and engage in activities without assistance reducing the risk of getting lost or disoriented.


Creating a supportive environment for people living with dementia is crucial for their well-being. Providing a familiar and safe space can help reduce feelings of confusion and agitation. By adapting the environment to meet their needs, such as using clear signage and labels, individuals with dementia can maintain a sense of independence and autonomy.

It is increasingly evident that advocating for dementia-friendly design principles is paramount within the caregiving community. Care professionals, architects, designers and everyone working within the health and social care industry, play a pivotal role in championing these principles in their practice, serving as advocates for individuals with dementia who often face challenges navigating built environments.

In my experience as a both an architect and a caregiver, I’ve witnessed firsthand the profound impact that thoughtful design can have on the well-being of individuals with dementia. I invite readers to share their own insights and experiences with dementia-friendly design, fostering a dialogue that promotes innovation and empathy in our approach to dementia care. Together, we can strive to create environments that empower and enrich the lives of individuals living with dementia.

Visit their website here. 

You can find out more about this in Lauren’s seminar at Care Roadshow Midlands 2024, book your spot here. 

Why attend Care Roadshows?

Join hundreds of like-minded individuals working in the care industry who are dedicated to keeping up to date with industry trends and sourcing innovative ideas for their care settings.

Attend educational seminars and panel discussions to credit your CPD

Meet the experts to have your questions answered

Receive fantastic onsite offers and discounts

Network with peers and industry players

Pick up hundreds of new product ideas and services

And most of all, enjoy a great day out with your colleagues

Industry Leading Exhibitors | Expert Run Seminars | Free to Attend

Our support for the CQC Single Assessment Framework
Inspiring Innovation: Future of Care Leaders Conference London 2024