New villages set global standards

The design of two new Brisbane villages planned by RetireAustralia will be informed by international dementia design standards established by the University of Stirling.

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The University of Stirling design principles ‘future-proofs’ environments so people with dementia and memory loss can maintain higher levels of personal independence, wellbeing and quality of life.

Marchese Partners Brisbane principal architect Frank Ehrenberg said retirement villages in planning stages at Tarragindi and Lutwyche were being designed in collaboration with Stirling to meet the six principles of dementia design.

Familiarity ensures the village is understandable to a person with a cognitive impairment, while legibility includes ensuring signage is logical and easily understood.

“Another pillar is distinctiveness so that, for example, entries and exits into a building are easy to identify,” Frank said.

“Landscaped garden areas should be designed so that it’s almost like a loop—when you leave, you’ll instinctively find your way back to the same entry.”

Accessibility means paths and buildings can be explored with ease, and includes opportunities for light exercise. Comfort and safety are the final key pillars.

Inside buildings, research has shown that lighting levels needed to be higher for people with cognitive and vision impairment.

Frank’s architects use virtual reality to show clients what it would look like to walk through a building, and examine their design directions wearing glasses specially made to mimic older eyes with glaucoma.

“The view through the glasses is quite dull and everything that you look at appears to be larger or smaller,” he said. “It’s quite amazing what considerations you need to ponder when you put yourself in that headspace.”

Frank said collaboration with University of Stirling ensured people-focused design.

“Everything we do needs to improve people’s lives,” he said. “Having Stirling as our long-term collaborator gives everyone peace of mind that there is a research facility there in the background who can provide unbiased feedback on the design decisions we make.

“To our clients and for us, it means peace of mind. And as designers, it’s a quality check on the product that we’re providing, and I think that’s great.”

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