International Masterclass on Dementia Care, Design and Ageing at the University of Stirling on 15th May 2019

In 2018 I completed the DSDC (Dementia Services Development Centre) 2 day Intersection of Dementia + Design course held at the RIBA. More of our clients are asking that signage and wayfinding takes into account the needs of people living with dementia, in both specialist health and social care settings as well as the built environment as a whole. Last week, in order to keep on top of current thinking I attended the DSDCs Masterclass event at the University of Stirling.

The Event

Speakers and delegates gathered from around the world in the Iris Murdoch Building. There were twelve 30 minute presentations on a variety of topics which once again reinforced the significant role design has to play in the lives of those who are living with dementia.

As well as good design, key threads included the power of social action, R&D, human rights and hope. The relevance of the use of the language we use surrounding the condition, the importance of evidence, the ability to apply personalisation and how we can can empower individuals and their carers to live a full and active life were recurring themes through all the presentations.

Read Sarah’s blog on Ian who lives with dementia on


Architect Frank Ehrenburg explained how his practice Marchese Partners linked up with the DSDC to be able to access expert input on seniors living projects in Australia. Isolation has been identified as a major issue within this sector and providing suitable communities for the ageing population to live happy and fulfilled lives is a passion for Frank.

Studio LR’s Lucy Richards used the Masterclass to launch their research-based symbols project. Funded by the Life Changes Trust, they reviewed 15 common symbols to assess their understanding by user groups living with dementia. The Edinburgh based designers are now in the final stages of designing a new set of inclusive symbols which have been fully tested to be dementia-friendly and will be available for use from next month.

Elaine Shine told the Masterclass how BSI are looking to fast track changes to the BS3800 series – the design of an accessible and inclusive built environment – to incorporate neurodiverse conditions which include autism, learning difficulties and dementia. Changes would normally take a minimum of 5 years but the BSI recognises the need to address this area as soon as possible. New guidelines will cover both mainstream and specialised locations and will include lighting, acoustics, flooring, spacial design and signage.

Design engineer Bodil Akesson gave an insight into Swedish medical equipment manufacturer Arjo. Working with the DSDC, the company wrote new design guidelines for future product development to consider the specific needs of residents and care givers in dementia specific environments.

Rob Charlton CEO of Space Group gave a thought provoking presentation about the pace of change. Assistive Technologies, the Internet of Things and Robotics are becoming more sophisticated and increasingly affordable – what opportunities do these present to help people living with dementia ?

Rob’s presentation was carefully balanced by Dr Una Lynch who is a Senior Associate at the University. Una also explained how staying at home and becoming isolated is very common for those diagnosed with dementia and their carers. The use of robotics is one way in which this might be addressed, but that this raises serious ethical concerns including a lack of testing, sufficient staff training and the fact robots are not programmed with reactive compassion. We should not expect robots to replace people.

Further presentations on robotics and technology were made by Dr Mauro Dragone from Heriot Watt University and Mr Fu Ziyi General Manager of Elder and Nursing care Business Division, Hitachi, China. Mauro reported on his work using robotics as an assistant to carers. Ziyi told us about the Hitachi approach to developing technology that will enable the Chinese population to live longer and better lives.


top left: Frank Ehrenberg; top right: Lucy Richards; bottom left: Rob Charlton, bottom right: Elaine Shine