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Eden Social Welfare Foundation


A new architectural assessment tool called Plan-EAT, paired with advanced spatial analysis, can be used to improve aged care design for people with dementia. It assesses a facility’s layout to evaluate the quality of its design in relation to residents’ needs. Designing – rather than retrofitting – facilities ensures they are truly fit-for-purpose and will enhance the welfare of people living with dementia in care.



Plan-EAT evaluates the floorplans of proposed or existing residential care facilities using evidence-based principles, including safety, size and scale, reduction of stimuli, movement and engagement, privacy and social interaction. In a practical sense, it produces a kind of index against which the properties of architectural plans can be measured by expert assessors and then used to change a design for the better.



The research team behind this project, which includes experts from the Centre from Environment, Dementia and Ageing Research at the University of Stirling, the University of Wollongong and UNSW Sydney. It is examining how its findings can be complemented by additional computational modelling and optimisation techniques to improve facility designs. Computational design is a data intensive, technically advanced approach which predicts typical behaviours in space to enable design optimisation in line with desirable social or behavioural patterns.



UNSW’s Professor Michael J. Ostwald, who is leading part of this international project. His research uses predictive mathematical models, supported by neurophysiology (brain scans and eye movement analysis), to analyse, optimise and understand architectural and urban space.



Professor Ostwald indicates independence and wellbeing of people with dementia can be significantly influenced by the physical environments around them. When population in Australia ages, and the number of people living with dementia increases, it is necessary to design more effective aged care facilities to better accommodate their needs. However, “the majority of residential care facilities were designed for people who have deteriorating physical mobility, rather than for people with dementia”, he says.





Brain scan undertaken by Prof. Ostwald’s team as a person experiences different aspects of the same building.(Supplied/Prof. Ostwald’s team)



How new technology can improve buildings for people with dementia


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