This year’s International Masterclass on Dementia Care, Design and Ageing (IMDDA) was an outstanding success, bringing together guests and speakers from around the world to discuss ideas from personal experience, design innovation, practice, policy and research. Each gave us a glimpse of where we are and how the future of living with dementia is changing.
Both days hosted keynote speakers who are living with a diagnosis of dementia. On day one, the inspirational Wendy Mitchell reminded everyone that ‘dementia may be terminal, but so is life! So let’s love each day’. Wendy has taken her diagnosis as an opportunity; living life each day as it comes with the most optimistic of outlooks. She likened her experience of living with dementia to learning to drive: when you pass your driving test you do everything automatically; as a learner you need to think about each action and step in the process. Day two started with the wonderful Ian Sloan, whose wife, Sheila, attended a DSDC dementia information workshop for family carers. After his wife attended the workshop, she implemented a host of practical solutions she had learnt. The changes Sheila made Ian firmly believes have improved their quality of life ‘I would not be standing here today if Sheila had not attended that workshop’. In a moving speech (which reduced the audience to tears) he thanked his wife for everything she had done, reminding us all of the important role that carers play.
Dr Donald Macaskill spoke passionately about a human rights based approach to dementia care, highlighting that there is not a one size fits all: ‘our human rights are individual. What I want, you might not’. This was followed by an insightful presentation from Avril Hepner from the British Deaf Association (BDA) who raised the important issue that the deaf community are behind the non-deaf community when it comes to awareness and understanding of dementia. The BDA are striving to ensure the deaf community receives the same level of care and support as the non-deaf community, creating resources that will help bridge that gap.
To provide a global perspective, IMDDA was delighted to welcome an array of international guests. Ryoji Noritake, CEO from Health and Global Institute, Japan; Professor Satoko Hotta from Keio University, Japan; Mr Fu Ziyi from Hitachi, China; and Professor Ian Philp from University of Stirling. Each guest provided insightful context and showcased the work that is being done globally to better prepare for an ageing population. Professor Hotta stressed in her presentation about the centre of compassionate community and how the right initiatives can ‘activate human potential’.
We heard from an array of architects and designers, who showcased some of the inspiring work that is being created using the dementia design principles. From here in Scotland, we had Alisdair Clements from INCH Architecture who worked with North Lanarkshire Council. Alisdair was able to share a snapshot into the process they created during the project to provide a pallet of suitable interior options for the client. Richard Murphy (OBE) and Dennis O’Keefe from Richard Murphy Architects shared how they have been trying to push the boundaries of design to create aesthetically beautiful yet practical buildings in their work with NHS Fife. Frank Ehrenberg from Marchese Partners International (MPI), Australia, showcased projects from Australia and how MPI are working with DSDC to peer review their projects to ensure the dementia design principles are met. Frank talked openly about issues that the older population face (in particular isolation, even within urban areas) and how they are using design to address these issues.
As an architect and academic, Professor Chaudhury gave a unique insight into creating responsive environments for people with dementia in long-term care settings. Dr Katey Twynford from University of Sheffield shared work from her PhD, which studied the potential of extra care housing to support people with dementia. Katey concluded her presentation reminding everyone that the effectiveness of any extra care service is underpinned by good design of space and the development of a sense of ‘place’ where meaningful relationships can develop.
With much anticipation around the forthcoming designing for the mind BSI guidelines, Elaine Shine, Standards Consultant with the BSI, explained about the process to develop and publish guidelines. When published, the guidelines will provide information to architects, planners, building managers and decision makers on the particular design aspects that could be addressed in order to better reflect the needs of those who experience neurodiversity. It was great to see so many examples of great design that is already in existence, but with the creation of the design for the mind standards, we hope that there will be even more progress in the future.
It was also clear from many of the presenters how much innovative work is going on to create products to support people with dementia. Lucy Richards discussed how the team from Studio LR have been working creatively to tackle society’s big challenges, and make every day experiences better for people from all walks of life. With funding from The Life Changes Trust, Studio LR are now designing and evaluating a set of new symbols for people with dementia.
Similarly, Bodil Akesson from Arjo highlighted how much work is put into designing products, not just for people with dementia, but to support the caregiver. Arjo very rightly argue that a product which supports the caregiver in their role, facilitates them to provide better care.
There were also plenty of opportunities to hear what the future has in store. Rob Charlton, Director BIM Technologies / Space Group showed IMMDA just how far technology has come in a short period of time. Rob showed that technology has innovated how architects and designers work; providing new solutions and ideas to revolutionise landscapes worldwide. Similarly, Allen Candy, CEO of Lifecare, Australia, was able to showcase how app-based technology led to the creation of an integrated system that has increased social interaction, reduced falls and eliminated the need for secure dementia areas in their care homes.
Dr Una Lynch and Dr Mauro Dragone discussed technology and care. Una discussed the ethical implications of developments within technology and caring robotics. Social isolation and its close relation to ‘loneliness’ are rapidly emerging as major public health issues; care robotics are emerging as an intervention to help meet personal care and social needs. Una’s presentation also discussed the potential ethical issues and risks around these emerging technologies. Mauro’s work in robotics and autonomous systems, combined with AI, digital infrastructure and connected data systems provided an insightful presentation into the potential of assistive robotic technology for our future.
It was a truly inspiring two days; thank you to all the speakers, delegates and sponsors. We hope you see you at the next International Masterclass.
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