The aim of this research project is to find out how neighbourhoods and local communities can support people with dementia to remain socially and physically active. We work closely with people with dementia and their carers to find out what their neighbourhood means to them, the different ways it supports them, and what could be changed to make life better.
The research adopts three methods to enable us to do this: a neighbourhood walk, a home tour, and a social network mapping exercise. Our work across Central Scotland is just one branch of an international project with the same research being undertaken in Greater Manchester (England) and Linköping (Sweden). The Stirling site is led by Richard Ward and supported by Kainde Manji. This presentation will focus on our findings from the home tours, and the importance of home for people with dementia.
Home: Process, Practice and Place
The Moving Memories pilot study set out to explore the feasibility of an investigation into housing transitions for older people with a particular focus upon individuals making a move into care or supported living. The aims of the pilot were three-fold: we wanted to trial our chosen methods; sensitise ourselves to any related ethical considerations; and begin to understand the different aspects of people’s experience of moving and the related down-sizing process. The pilot study also provided an opportunity to build relationships with different stakeholders and potential collaborators for a planned larger project.
The study is informed by an emerging material culture literature and in particular existing research and discussion of the role that the belongings that people have amassed over their lives play in the process of transition. We wanted to understand whether closer attention to people’s relationship with their ‘material convoy’ of possessions might facilitate their move into a new home environment. The ultimate goal of the pilot study was to establish whether there are grounds for research in this area to enhance care practice and lead to a more positive experience of settlement in care, in recognition that this is often a period of heightened vulnerability for many people in late old age and where an unwanted or poorly planned move can often have negative outcomes.
The British Standards Institute (BSI) have embarked on the development of the first British Standards guidelines for designing for neurodivergent individuals. The guidelines are likely to cover: spatial characteristics; wayfinding; safeguarding and general design features – all key design principles championed by the Dementia Services Development Centre (DSDC) at the University of Stirling for over 25 years. DSDC welcome this progressive standard as the next step towards a truly ‘inclusive’ built environment. Design guidance which encompasses recommendations across several areas of neurodiversity has the potential to leverage positive, considered design solutions, much like the innovative designs developed in response to accessible design legislation of the early 2000s.
Material culture and transitions in care
Residential homes for older people often encourage potential residents to bring personal possessions and furniture with them from their former homes, in order to help them ‘become at home’ and maintain a sense of identity. My doctoral research explored how interactions with material culture can shape residents’ experiences of home and transitions to care.
These findings are based on fieldwork collected over twelve months at two residential homes for older people. I conducted participant observation and interviews with residents and staff. A sense of home was not automatically transferred with the residents’ possessions. ‘Being at home’ was an active process which was influenced by the built design and care culture of the residential home, and by the residents’ ongoing interactions with the material culture which surrounded them. Residents furnished their rooms with possessions from their former homes, but also acquired new objects and made future plans for their rooms.
As well as encouraging residents to bring existing possessions with them from their former homes, residential homes should work with residents to explore other opportunities for place-making. These could include encouraging them to buy new items and supporting them in everyday practices which involve material interactions, such as tidying and taking part in activities. The built design and care culture of residential homes should enable, rather than hinder, place-making by residents.