Integrated living environment for people with memory decline

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School of Arts, Design and Architecture | Master's thesis
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Master’s Programme in Interior Architecture
As a result of developments in the healthcare sector, the average length of life has prolonged. Consequently, we now live in a world with an aging population. Although this is a favorable life scenario , it is not without its difficulties. Cognitive decline or dementia is a globally growing concern related to the older demographic. People with dementia, as well as those with other types of impairments, require special care, support, and suitable environment for living. These needs make life at home difficult and frequently lead individuals to relocate to institutional housing. This form of housing arrangement amplifies the problem of separation from mainstream society, lowered self-direction and control over one’s own life with a subsequent decrease in living an active life. These concerns prompted the development of this thesis with research and design objectives to develop integrated and diverse living solutions for people with dementia, allowing them to age in a place of their choice. For the thesis, the subject was investigated in the case of Helsinki city housing company Heka – provider of housing for general population and special social groups such as people with dementia. It offered the real-life context for this project and was utilized to investigate the system of housing and care. One of Heka’s properties was selected for researching, prototyping, and demonstrating the new concept. To gain a thorough understanding of the realities of problems associated with living with dementia and to grasp the solutions that are currently in place, literature was used as a primary source. Identifying the key stakeholders of the system of developing living and care solutions, including the users, i.e. people with dementia themselves, and collaborating with them was an important aspect of the thesis. A second research objective was developed to define the scope of this investigation, which intended to discover how individuals with dementia can be included in the process of developing living solutions for themselves. Various tools and methods, such as interviews, workshops, focus group activities were used and customized according to the capabilities of participants. All humans are individuals with their own way of life, habits in an environment that resonates with these choices. Hence, the importance of having a choice is one of the most important conclusions from research and user interactions that dictates design decisions. Giving people the ability to choose their own way of life has the potential to be an effective way of developing living alternatives for people with dementia. Residential services and spaces, engagement services and spaces, and support services and spaces are three elements that must be addressed through service and space provision to enable aging in a place of choice. A strong network of these elements in the area could potentially allow a greater population to age in place. By integrating the serviced housing with the housing for other user groups, the thesis proposes a strategy that incorporates serviced housing as a component of the standard housing stock. The serviced housing is built on the three principles of residency, engagement, and support. As part of this approach, new services such as drop-in consultations for persons seeking advice, social spaces such as a cafés, and residential services such as a dementia hotel are proposed. A branding strategy is advised to de-stigmatize and incorporate people with memory decline, and supporting services and properties for them into the city’s portfolio. This is an attempt to change an image associated with such spaces, into one that is inclusive and open to the community. The thesis with demonstration of the concept’s scaling and its benefits in the realm of living solutions for people with dementia.
Kareoja, Pentti
Thesis advisor
Vladykina, Natalia
Pirinen, Antti
dementia, living environment, aging in place, service design, user-centered design, memory decline
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