HEIDI DOUGLASS | h.douglass@unsw.edu.au

September 21st is World Alzheimer's Day. With 150 million people expected to have dementia world-wide by 2050, CHeBA's Co-Directors Professor Perminder Sachdev and Professor Henry Brodaty encourage everyone to assist in the global effort to raise awareness and challenge the stigma around this disease that could affect any one of us.

Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) has released the World Alzheimer Report 2020. The first of its kind, it is the most comprehensive and in-depth look at dementia related design and the built environment. It looks at progress to date, pioneers and innovators, design principles, application, regional and cultural contexts, the importance of including people with dementia in all aspects of design and poignantly the role of design during the coronavirus pandemic and beyond. 

The Report, which includes 84 case studies, looks at design in both home and residential care settings as well as hospitals and public spaces. The report makes a strong statement that design for dementia is 30 years behind the physical disabilities movement – and that this must change.

Co-Directors of UNSW Sydney’s Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing (CHeBA), Professor Perminder Sachdev and Professor Henry Brodaty, agree with the report’s key calls to action – particularly for governments and institutions to engage researchers to translate knowledge on designing for people with dementia.

"A well-designed environment plays a major role in bringing dignity to the lives of people with dementia", said Professor Sachdev. 

“There are creative individuals around the world who present excellent examples of such design.  We must convince governments and corporations to implement these ideas to produce the transformation for living with dementia that is sorely needed,” said Professor Sachdev.

Spokesman for CHeBA’s The Dementia Momentum initiative and Chairman of IPH Limited and FBR Limited, Mr Richard Grellman AM - whose wife Suellen has resided in care with advanced young onset Alzheimer’s disease since 2014 - supports the need for dementia-related design to be included in national dementia plans.

“Dementia cost Australia more than $15 billion last year and by the middle of the century we are looking at an estimated global cost of around $820 billion,” said Richard Grellman AM.

"If there are economic advantages of investment in dementia-related design then a relationship between health economists and the field of designing for people living with dementia should clearly be considered", said Richard Grellman AM.

Dementia-related design is a vital, non-pharmacological intervention that can enable people living with dementia to live at home and in their communities for as long as possible and be treated with dignity in all care environments, hospitals and all public buildings and spaces. Like other therapeutic supports and treatments, design must not be neglected as part of the global response to dementia.

The report’s key calls to action include:

  • Governments must more overtly include dementia-related design as a non-pharmacological intervention and include design in national dementia plans.
  • The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) must be interpreted in recognition of dementia as a disability and the consequent need to apply design guidelines for people living with dementia in the same way as for people living with physical disabilities.
  • 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 and for planners, architects and care managers to actively engage and take this into practice.
  • Health economists should engage with the field of designing for people living with dementia to clearly establish the cost benefit of investment in dementia-related design translating to savings in health and care costs.
  • Governments and academic institutions should engage researchers to translate knowledge on designing for people living with dementia, including in low- and middle- income countries. 
  • National Dementia Associations should 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.
  • Governments and the international community should proactively engage designers, architects, developers, operators and innovators, in the construction and IT sectors, in designing for people living with dementia.

For more information about CHeBA’s research activities go to www.cheba.unsw.edu.au.

For more information about The Dementia Momentum go to https://cheba.unsw.edu.au/content/what-dementia-momentum