Here be dragons

Mapping research and identifying gaps in the evidence base for design which supports and enables people with dementia to live as well as they are able to.

The sun is shining and the skies are blue over the University of Stirling this morning. The conference room of the Iris Murdoch Building is filled with people and there is a hum of anticipation. This is the start of a two-day International Masterclass in Dementia Care, Design and Ageing, a regular highlight in the calendar of the University’s Dementia Services Development Centre (‘DSDC’). Attendees represent different countries and cultures, professional and academic backgrounds, but we are united in our commitment to using research to inform the design of environments which support people to ‘live as well as they are able to’. This is the phrase favoured by Wendy Mitchell, who has just given an inspirational presentation. Wendy is, amongst many other things, the best-selling author of Somebody I Used to Know, a book which recounts her own experience of living with dementia.

From its inception more than 25 years ago, DSDC has sought to champion the importance of good design in supporting and enabling people ‘living with dementia’, i.e. both those with diagnoses and those who care for and support them, to live as well as they are able to and to enjoy the same rights and freedoms as any other citizen. DSDC’s reputation as an international centre of excellence is well deserved, having led the development and dissemination of good practice in the area of enabling living environments, for example through its Design Audit Tools, online 2D ‘virtual care home’ resources, good practice guides, and latterly the IRIDIS mobile phone app. As a consequence, others look to the Centre to both innovate and inform. This is a great privilege but also a heavy responsibility.

The World Health Organisation estimates that globally there are around 50 million people living with dementia. There is therefore an urgent need to understand how to design and create environments which support people with dementia to live the best life that they are able to and which enable everybody to participate in and contribute to their communities. Our work is helping to make this happen.

We have systematically examined research which aims to identify those aspects of environmental design that can support, enable, or contribute to the wellbeing of people living with dementia. Our approach to identifying, evaluating and understanding the academic literature provides a map, a starting point from which to explore the research landscape. In the past, map-makers would use information gathered from a variety of sources to chart different geographies, often labelling areas yet to be explored with the phrase ‘Here be dragons’. Our systematically conducted and comprehensive review follows a similar process, describing both well-explored areas where the evidence base for design measures is strong and gaps in the evidence base, where knowledge is limited or non-existent. In sharing our findings, our review can help policy makers to develop policies which are informed by the best available evidence, service providers and research funders to allocate resources in ways which achieve the highest impact, and researchers to direct research effort to where it is most needed.

Alison Dawson is co-author, with Alison Bowes (also at the University of Stirling) of Designing Environments for People with Dementia. This is an entirely Open Access title and can be found on our Insight platform

Article Details
Author:

Alison Dawson ,
Senior Research Fellow, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Stirling, UK

Date Published:

May 16th, 2019

Would you like to contribute to our Real Impact blog? Find out how.

Recent News & Blogs

- Discover impact news from across the globe

Raising the bar on improving the public’s health at Healthy City Design International Congress 2019

Michael Chang - Health, Open Research

This year the theme of the annual Healthy City Design International Congress, ‘Designing for utopia or dystopia? People and planetary health at a crossroads’, reflects a tipping point in which people’s health and wellbeing are becoming a central consideration in healthy city design and place-making.  The World Health Organization (WHO) defines a healthy city as

Read Article

Challenges and solutions to sharing health research data

Robert F. Terry, Phaikyeong Cheah, Amanda Blatch-Jones - Open Research

In this blog post, Robert F. Terry, Manager of Research Policy at TDR and  Phaikyeong Cheah, Co-ordinator of the Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit Data Access Committee and Amanda Blatch-Jones, Senior Research Fellow at the NIHR, explore the importance of data sharing, the scepticism surrounding this practice and what needs to happen in order

Read Article

‘By offering the same playing ground for everyone they are able to share their findings.’ A Q&A with journal editor Walter Leal

Walter Leal - Open Research

As the editor of our first flipped open access journal International Journal of Climate Change Strategies and Management (IJCCSM) we wanted to hear what Walter Leal thought about making the research landscape more inclusive and open for all.  The journal publishes papers dealing with policy-making on climate change, and methodological approaches to cope with the problems

Read Article

We use cookies to enhance your online experience. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to accept them in accordance with our cookie policy or you can .

Emerald Logo

Privacy and information

You can find further information about our privacy policy here.

Strictly Necessary Cookies

Strictly Necessary Cookies should be enabled at all times so that we can save your preferences for cookie settings and ensure that the website works correctly, for example logging into the website.

If you disable these cookies, we will not be able to save your preferences and you may not be able to log in to the website. This means that every time you visit this website you will need to enable or disable cookies again.

You can find further information about our cookie policy here.

Third Party Cookies

This website uses Google Analytics to collect anonymous information such as the number of visitors to the site, and the most popular pages.

Keeping this cookie enabled helps us to improve our website.

You can find further information about our cookie policy here.

Privacy and information

You can find further information about our privacy policy here.

To enjoy the full experience of our website please .