Stirling researchers to transform housing design for dementia

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Experts at the University of Stirling are leading a major new research project – with the support of international partners including the dementia care foundation established by the Queen of Sweden -  to create future-proof housing to meet the needs of the world’s ageing population.

Led by Professor Alison Bowes, the project, ‘Designing Homes for Healthy Cognitive Ageing: Co-Production for Impact and Scale (DesHCA)’, will bring together Scotland’s leading experts on dementia and dementia design, the building industry, architects, housing providers and people in the community. It is being supported by the royal charity Silviahemmet.

They will work together to identify housing innovations that can better support people living with cognitive conditions, such as dementia, for longer.



Prof Alison Bowes has shoulder length grey hair and wears dark, square glasses. She is looking to the camera smiling with her hands clasped leaning on the bannister of the staircase she is standing on
Professor Alison Bowes
Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences
We know that people's homes can make the experience of cognitive changes more difficult, or can enable continuing inclusion and a sense of self-worth and self-esteem.

The project is supported by £1.6m of funding provided through the UK Research & Innovation (UKRI’s) healthy ageing challenge, part of the Social, Behavioural and Design Research Programme.

Silviahemmet bring their experience of developing the SilviaBo – a specialist housing design for people living with dementia – created using IKEA’s modular housing BoKlok. The project is also supported by Mediva, a Japanese company who have developed housing for people who may develop dementia.

Professor Bowes, who is Dean of Stirling’s Faculty of Social Sciences, said: “This project brings together a multidisciplinary team involving stakeholders from all areas of housing provision, including people experiencing ageing and cognitive change, architects and designers, housing experts, planners, builders and housing providers, to identify housing innovations that can support living better for longer with cognitive change.”

Virtual designs

The project will design and build virtual and real designs that will act as demonstrators and test-beds for innovations to support healthy cognitive ageing. These designs will be evaluated by stakeholders, including older people who will experience the new designs using virtual reality (VR), and be able to collaborate with builders, architects and housing providers to identify practical, realistic and affordable designs that can support healthy cognitive ageing, and therefore a longer healthy, independent life.

Professor Bowes added: “DesHCA’s aim is to identify scalable and sustainable design improvements to homes which provide support for healthy cognitive ageing, enabling people, as they age, to continue living in their preferred environments as they experience cognitive change. This change may include significant cognitive impairment and diagnosis of dementia.

“In the longer term, the project will guide improvements to existing housing and provide tools for future developers to inform their decisions about housing, with a view to meeting the needs of the world’s ageing population.” 

The researchers also have a unique opportunity to feed directly into the Stirling and Clackmannanshire City Region Deal, providing groundwork for local housing developments.


The full list of partners involved in this project are:

HousingLIN, Inch Architecture, Construction Scotland Innovation Centre; Silviahemmet/BoKlok/IKEA; Stone Paper Scissors; Space Group; Holmes Miller Architects; Robertson Group; Faithful and Gould; Mediva (Japan) and the UK-Japan international network on Designing for Ageing and Dementia; Stirling Council; Clackmannanshire Council; and Kingdom Housing Association.

The project is also supported by RICS Scotland; Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) Scotland, and CIPFA.