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Sally Magnusson launches Dementia Centre’s virtual building design guide

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Professor June Andrews and Sally Magnusson
Professor June Andrews and Sally Magnusson

Broadcaster and writer Sally Magnusson officially launched the Dementia Services Development Centre’s (DSDC) virtual dementia-friendly home design guide at the University of Stirling on Tuesday 20 March.

During the launch, Sally spoke about her personal experience of caring for her mother who has dementia. She also highlighted the “pioneering” work of the DSDC and the new online design guide which can be used to design environments specially to support people living with the condition.

Within the DSDC there are demonstration rooms where visitors can see dementia-friendly design in action. Around 1000 people per month come to visit the centre to view these rooms. The new online guide will allow people from around the globe to access the information and share good design in dementia care.

Sally said: “Dementia in all its various forms is a wicked disease. The journey my sisters and I have been on with our beloved mother these last eight years or so has been more eye opening and emotionally shattering than we could have believed possible. To watch it take over her has been heart-breaking.

“This home design facility will help make the lives of sufferers easier and the burden of carers lighter. Often quite small things can make a huge difference to people’s comfort and safety and ability to negotiate life independently for longer - such as a toilet designed in the right way, using contrasting colours in a room or increasing the amount of light. These are all things we could have learned a lot earlier by contacting the DSDC.

“Access to this site will mean that people in the earlier stages of dementia will have a better chance of continuing to enjoy life.”

DSDC Director, Professor June Andrews, added: “We were delighted to welcome Sally to the centre and for her to share her very moving story with us.

“The new online resource means that people will no longer have to come to us to see how to design for dementia - now they can access that information from wherever they are and start making things better straight away.”

The unique, detailed online guide was created by Edinburgh architects firm Burnett Pollock Associates, who also designed the Iris Murdoch Building on the University campus which houses the DSDC. Ricky Pollock who is a practice partner of the firm also works as Director of Architecture at the DSDC and firmly believes good design can change lives.

Ricky said: “This guide takes the detail of what we can offer and what can be viewed online to a whole new level. Dementia is the forgotten illness so we are proud to be part of this virtual guide and what it offers to sufferers and their carers. Places that adopt these dementia-friendly design elements will see a variety of benefits.”

Research shows that good design can help reduce falls in corridors by 71 per cent and reduce reported aggressive behaviour by up to 60 per cent. Dementia-friendly changes can also help reduce weight loss in patients and cut drug bills due to behavioural changes.

June added: “This is about changing the lives of people with dementia. We are proud to be at the forefront of that.”

Annika Small CEO of Nominet Trust which provided funding to the project said: “Dementia is one of the biggest problems facing our aging population and as such, it’s critical that we find new and innovative ways to aid those individuals who live with it.

“Taking this into account, we’re thrilled to have been part of the development of DSDC’s new digital tools. It’s clear that this resource will provide a very practical solution to families and care providers living and coping with dementia on a daily basis.”

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