Design for dementia 

RGU’s Architecture and Occupational Therapy students join forces to design for dementia

Groups of architecture and occupational therapy students at Robert Gordon University (RGU) have joined forces for a collaborative learning opportunity focusing on the needs of individuals with dementia in relation to their living environments. 

The joint teaching and learning sessions were developed as an innovative way to support these third year students and encourage future colleagues to collaborate, learning with and from each other.

The project has enabled a better understanding of building design and interpreting plans for the occupational therapy students, while the architecture students have gained awareness and knowledge of the needs of this particular population.

As Dawn Mitchell, subject leader in Occupational Therapy, explains, there are huge challenges for people with dementia when it comes to carrying out simple everyday tasks around the home.

“Individuals with dementia frequently experience challenges in their daily life due to cognitive impairment such as memory loss, disorientation or visual impairments,” she said.

“These challenges can make finding their way around the environment or carrying out new or even familiar activities difficult. Through their unique understanding of these difficulties, occupational therapists can inform and influence design and building of inclusive environments.

“This process enables older people to remain active participants in society by allowing individuals to continue to participate in their chosen occupations while maintaining independence through reducing risk and building confidence.

“Collaboratively the students have considered how the environment could be created or modified to reduce potential barriers. 

“It is anticipated this shared learning will increase the students’ knowledge which they will use in their chosen careers and also support their understanding of each other’s roles and future collaborative working.”

This an invaluable experience for our student architects as they are learning to design more adaptive environments that allow people to remain independent for longer – Neil Lamb, subject leader in Architecture, RGU

Neil Lamb, subject leader in Architecture, added: “This an invaluable experience for our student architects as they are learning to design more adaptive environments that allow people to remain independent for longer.”

“Once they started chatting with the OT students, it became clear that some established design practices needed to be re-thought as they can present real difficulties for those with dementia.

“This collaborative approach to teaching and learning made perfect sense for us, as the students could gain great insight from each other and ultimately it could lead to the improvement of living conditions those with dementia.

“The students worked incredibly well together and we are looking forward to developing this concept, given the success of the pilot and the positive feedback from both sets of students.”

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