What's happening

5 Jul 2018

Launch of "Chris and Sally's House" - a project on dementia.

A model home designed around concepts and technologies, providing solutions to the everyday issues experienced by people with dementia is officially open.

The house, at the BRE Innovation Park, in Watford, features a vast collection of intuitive ideas, all based on proven academic research, from simple open-plan living spaces to more hi-tech innovations such ‘talking cushions’, which promote activity after long periods of rest, sensory ‘smart chairs’, self-regulating climate control and safety sensors in high risk areas, such as the kitchen.

All of the features in the home were designed around a range of unique personas, created especially for the project, which reflect four progressive stages of dementia, from early on-set to end-of-life.

Loughborough Design School's Professor Sue Hignett and PhD student Charlotte Jais worked in collaboration with Prof Hogervorst and devised a number of personas, each with specific care needs, which have been used to guide the design and features of the house. The main narrative of the project is based on the care needs of the personas Chris and Sally – a couple living with the progressive stages of dementia.

Professor Hignett said: “Providing care and treatment at home presents challenges for people living with dementia whether care is delivered from one or multiple organisations or within different models of home care, for example, the hospital in the home, patient-centred medical home, home first policies and ageing-in-place", she added “We know that a well-designed care environment can improve quality of life and enable independence."

The personas focussed on the symptoms, care requirements and design needs of fictitious characters at different stages of dementia - Alison, Barry, Christine and David. Each persona demonstrates good and bad days and allows families to identify at what stage of the disease they’re loved ones are closest to, and subsequently seek the correct care. Commneting on the research, Professor Hignett stated “For this research, we considered a range of activities, including personal hygiene, mobilisation, and nutrition, as well as later stage nursing care for medication administration, tube feeding, and more home care technology – for example a ventilator or electric wheelchair. We used scientific information to create descriptions and videos to bring the voices of the people living with different stages of dementia to help communicate their abilities, limitations and preferences.”

Each persona demonstrates good and bad days and allows families to identify at what stage of the disease they’re loved ones are closest to, and subsequently seek the correct care.

The newly launched demonstration house is open to the public, care-providers, local authorities, architects and anyone with an interest in dementia care to allow them to gather ideas, solutions and inspiration from the technology and design on show.

Examples of features include:

  • Clear lines of sight and use of colour through the home help guide people towards specific rooms and reduce the risk for slips and trips
  • Increased natural lighting, which has been shown to help people stay alert during the day and to sleep better at night
  • Noise reduction features, to reduce stress and agitation
  • A ‘talking cushion’ with inbuilt sensors to remind people to get up, walk around and get a drink because walking is beneficial for health and dehydration can cause cognitive problems
  • Homely, simple and familiar interior design to help promote rest and relaxation
  • Space to install a lift so the lounge does not become a bedroom when the stairs become difficult

The house will continue to provide invaluable data about interactions with technology and day-to-day living patterns and routines of any inhabitants.

“The house will be an invaluable tool for understanding numerous aspects of how people with dementia cope in an independent setting,” said Professor Hogervorst. “Everything we learn will go into improving the lives of people with the condition as well as back into the BRE home to make it an ever-evolving and progressing project.”

For more information on Prof Sue Hignett click here.