Feb 19, 2019

Designing for Dementia

By Natalie Groves

Our fantastic IT and audio-visual team have been running a series of internal presentations allowing us all to learn a little more about their impact on projects. Their most recent talk is something a lot of people could relate to, whether they suffer themselves or know someone who does. Dementia.

In the UK, there are currently 850,000 people living with Dementia. With an ageing population, and with Dementia affecting the older population, this is predicted to increase to 1 million people by 2025. Already today, one in six people over 80, and 40,000 people under 65, are living with Dementia.

As part of the talk, we were able to hear from Sara Marchant from Gatwick Airport whose role as Accessibility Manager is to ensure that Gatwick Airport is accessible to everyone, including those with a physical disability as well as those with disabilities that we cannot necessarily see.

Taking this into consideration, how does this impact us as engineers and how we design buildings such as airports?

Airports are designed to firstly ensure safety of passengers but also to maximise profit by increasing expenditure of those visiting. Visiting an airport today is very much an experience in its self. But for a person living with dementia, going to the airport can be an extremely difficult task. From accessing security, to making their way through the maze that is duty free, to finding their boarding gate which in some of the larger airports can mean accessing another mode of transport.

So, what can airports, and in fact other service providers such as train stations, shopping centres, stadiums and theatres do to accommodate our changing demographic.

  • Designers must get the fundamentals right early in the design stage, starting with an open plan layout, which is key to providing visual accessibility for people living with Dementia. Access to gardens and views out of the building are important for people to know where they are in the building, what time of day it is and what the weather is doing.    
  • Airports could consider an alternative access route from security to bypass duty free. Mirrors, glares and reflective lights are all common features of duty free, but are also all aspects that can negatively impact on a person living with dementia. By creating a different route, passengers have the opportunity to take a simpler path to their boarding area.
  • Creating an additional space designed specifically as a calming room to allow the ability to quickly recover, away from the main buzz of the airport.
  • As we are seeing a constant change in technology, facial recognition could soon change the way we all experience airports but could be used as a way to identify people living with dementia so that additional assistance could be available should it be required.
  • Other technological advances could include an app which would direct travellers to their gate and virtual tours of the airport to allow a passenger to familiarise themselves before their visit.

Most importantly, the biggest impact we can all have is to raise awareness. Dementia Friends is the biggest initiative to change people’s perception of Dementia and turn their new understanding into action. If you are interested in becoming a Dementia Friend, please visit: https://www.dementiafriends.org.uk/

To find out more about our IT/AV team and the projects they are delivering, please click here.

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Aviation, IT and Audiovisual, Natalie Warne, Uncategorized


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