Supporting people living with dementia

Our research is identifying ways to reduce dementia risk for future generations, as well helping those already with the condition live more independent lives.

There are almost a million people living with dementia in the UK – 50 million worldwide – and it is now the country’s biggest killer, overtaking both heart disease and cancer.

Watch the short video below to see how dementia is affecting Barry's life.

We are determined to improve the lives of people living with dementia and their families, as well as find new ways to prevent more people from developing the condition in the first place. Find out how:

Designing homes for dementia sufferers

Across our University academics have combined their knowledge to create the Dementia House – a show home designed around concepts and technologies which will allow people with dementia to live independently for longer.

From Loughborough, academics in the Design School, School of Architecture, Building and Civil Engineering and the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences are all involved in the unique project.

The house has been created in partnership with BRE and HLP Architects and is located at the BRE Innovation Park in Watford. It 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.

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

One of the home’s more hi-tech features is an Acti-chair, which includes resistance bands with inbuilt sensors to guide strength, speed and direction of movement. The Acti-chair not only promotes physical well-being but also improves memory by encouraging repetition of exercise patterns.

As well as the hi-tech gadgets, the home is packed with simple, inexpensive solutions such as self-closing fridge doors, glass cabinets, simple switches, large clocks and furniture with no protruding corners to minimise injuries from falls.

All of the features in the home are designed around a range of unique personas, created especially for the project by Professor Sue Hignett, Professor Eef Hogervorst and Charlotte Jais. Each persona reflects four progressive stages of dementia, from early on-set to end-of-life.

The 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.

Understanding the impact of diet and exercise

Academics from our School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences are looking at how changes to diet can reduce your dementia risk, as well as developing exercise programmes that can slow the cognitive and physical decline of people with the condition.

Our research has found that tempe (a fermented soy product) showed protective effects on brain function in the elderly and improved memory function in Indonesian older people. Although effects were less clear in English older people with and without dementia, further research hopes to investigate whether this is related to gut environments that we may be able to affect.

A number of studies have also shown that resistance or strength training is beneficial in slowing the cognitive and physical decline of people with and without dementia. With colleagues from the School, she has created an online programme called ‘Couch potatoes for cognition’ to encourage individuals to take part in exercises that aid the mind and general wellbeing.

These exercises are currently being developed into a UK wide exercise programme for those living with dementia and is part of a multi-million pound project called PRIDE (promoting independence in people with dementia). 

Find out more

Improving communication

Our experts in the School of Social Sciences, are helping to improve communication with people who have dementia by researching communication in dementia care and with families affected by the disease. 

The Dementia Talking project is based on analysis of media representations of dementia, interviews with family carers of people living with dementia, and 45 hours of video-recordings of people with dementia in health care, care home and domestic settings. The aim of the project is to understand how conversations about, and to, people with dementia are constructed and how they can be improved.

Watch the short video below to find out more about Professor Liz Peel's research on how people interact with each other and the opportunities to maximise people’s social inclusion and quality of life.

Professor Peel’s work in this area is cited by the Alzheimer’s Society ‘Dementia-friendly media and broadcast guide’, a practical guide for media, broadcast and creative sectors representing or reporting on dementia.

Meet the Game Changers

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Professor Liz Peel

Professor of Communication and Social Interaction

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Professor Sue Hignett

Professor of Healthcare Ergonomics and Patient Safety