Monday, November 16, 2020
My friend Morris Klein sent me this article a couple weeks ago (thanks Morris). Good urban design can make Greater Washington more dementia-friendly explains that "Greater Washington’s population of older adults is growing. So too is the number of people with dementia and other age-related memory loss. That makes designing for dementia one of the key ways we can make our urban spaces work for the people using them." The article explains that many folks with dementia live within the community rather than in a facility. As a result, city planners need to consider this when updating their urban planning and their zoning ordinances.
[M]ost people with memory loss age in their communities, cared for by family members who do not receive enough support. Those in nursing homes often face abusive, unhealthy, or unhappy environments. Thousands of people with dementia and memory loss died from the coronavirus pandemic in nursing homes. As a result of these trends, more families are now seeking to keep loved ones with dementia in the community.
But public spaces are often unusable by people with cognitive abilities affected by dementia. People with dementia often feel overwhelmed, get lost, have trouble, or face dangerous situations while trying to navigate cities. Skills that we take for granted are difficult for older adults with dementia, including the ability to find alternative routes, filter out extraneous sensory information, or remember directions. Much of this is unintentional: designers and planners are often unaware of these needs. That intent, however, does not change the impact.
The article discusses various suggestions and techniques, such as wayfinding, signage and invigoratingly-designed spaces. Of course, safety parking, and types of seating must also be considered. Most importantly is "listening to people with dementia, who should be engaged in design processes in some way, even if just in informal conversations. Planners and designers can learn from social programs for older adults with memory loss."