Designing for Ageing and Dementia International Research Network

Lead Research Organisation: University of Stirling
Department Name: Applied Social Science


Living with an ageing and increasingly cognitively impaired population is seen as an issue in both Japan and the UK. Although the prevalence of dementia is decreasing the incidence is increasing as populations in both countries live longer: between the two countries there are nearly 6 million people with dementia, with numbers rapidly increasing as the respective populations age. This situation is often considered negative and problematic, but an ageing population creates opportunities for creative and innovative solutions to meet the needs of older people with dementia. One such area is the design of the built environment. Designing environments in ways which can maximise quality of life, social inclusion and participation is increasingly a research interest in both countries.

Taking a perspective which maximises personal and societal capacity and participation, valuing the contribution of older people and people with dementia, is increasingly an emphasis in policy in both the UK and Japan, yet has still to be realised in practice and research. Exploring this barrier in a cross-national context may expose cultural differences in how to engage older people and their support network in research.

Building on Stirling's record of work on designing environments for people with dementia and its initial extension to Japan, there is potential to develop cross-national and cross-cultural learning about ways in which to design environments for older people with dementia with this perspective. The project aims to engage with communities and older people to work in a participative way in both countries and learn more about what really matters, and where evidence is most needed. This activity will enable research to be developed which is co-produced, culturally sensitive and impact generating and learns lessons from experiences in both countries.

Three scoping workshops will focus on: engaging community and understanding culture; policy and economic issues and design in the UK (Workshop 1) and Japan (Workshop 2). Stakeholders including people experiencing dementia will be able to take part in these. A third workshop will consolidate the learning from the previous workshops leading to a manifesto for future research. Four Fellowships for early career researchers (ECRs) will provide opportunities for both Japanese (2) and UK (2) ECRs to gain in-depth knowledge and experience. ECRs will be mentored through the process of the scoping studies and the development of the research programme and joint publications.

The main output from the scoping work will be a programme of cross national research, built on mutual understanding and agreement about key questions and methods that are realistic and practical in both countries and offer insight into culture-specific and culture-invariant design issues with the populations of interest. The programme will be mindful of funding initiatives as well as future-focused.

In addition to completing the scoping work, the collaboration will strengthen and add to the network of researchers engaged in this work from both the UK and Japan. Following completion of the project, keynote lectures open to all researchers interested in environmental aspects of ageing and design in Japan and the UK will be hosted to share the learning from the network.

The project will establish a sustainable research and stakeholder network which will take forward collaborative cross-national and cross-cultural research on living environments for people with dementia.

Planned Impact

The impact of this work will extend to several stakeholder groups, through different routes.

Business/economic impact: We will engage with business throughout the process and invite them to participate in the workshops. We expect to engage a wide range of businesses who are involved with the markets in ageing and design. They will include producers of products relevant to markets in ageing, dementia and design, such as lighting, flooring, furniture, kitchen and bathroom equipment and others. They will be engaged through direct participation in the workshops, invitations to the keynote lectures and the briefing documents which will be widely circulated. This engagement opens up possibilities of global market opportunities to develop new products, services and technologies that can be prototyped in both countries. Businesses will include care providers, who will learn about evidenced examples of good design practice.

Construction industry and housing providers: will benefit from the insights into beneficial design for people with dementia and this will assist their activity in developing housing and other environments for people with dementia. Engagement with them will be through invitations to the workshops and keynote lecture and through the briefing papers.

Policy and practice at local and national level: benefits from exchanges of how policy can influence implementation, regulation of design and planning. Comparative policy perspectives on ageing can be explored, lessons learnt from different contexts and policy developed for the next generation of older people. The impact of the project will consequently benefit policy makers and practitioners and they will be invited to join all workshops and keynote lectures, as well as benefiting from the briefing documents. HGPI's role will be crucial here, as this is their specialist area of expertise.

People with dementia and older people more generally: The proposed research programme will involve linking with local communities including people living with dementia and those who care for and support them. The knowledge generated by the project will produce added value and impact in both countries, improving the experience of those living with dementia and supporting wider social and economic benefit.

Researchers: will benefit from the novel cross cultural approach to understanding and implementing improved design for people with dementia. As the project is grounded in local expertise and experience through engagement with local people and professionals, researchers will gain realistic lesson learning and proposals for research. They will gain cross-national understanding and be able to identify areas of common interest, appropriate research methodology and outcome measures.

Participants in the project: will gain some intrinsic benefit from participation. They will be able to represent and reflect on their experiences and knowledge and will have input to the finally developed programme of research, research tools and outcome measures. They too will benefit from the developed cross national understanding.


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