4.1 Introduction to Dementia Friendly Environments
The characteristics of the built environment can constitute a barrier to the autonomy and well-being of people, or contribute to promoting the maximum degree of independence, autonomy and well-being, they can increase the limitations or help compensating them as the disease progresses.
Our society has faced multiple and profound changes during the last decades:
- the demographic changes
- the transformations in family structures
- the new role of women in society
- the modification of preferences of elderly people regarding their own ageing
All this transformation is leading us to rethink some of the pillars on which our existing wellness model was based.
Among the factors that determine the quality of life, the environment where a person loving with dementia lives is a fundamental resource, not only with regard to the physical part, but also the emotional bond that develops with the space where they live as with the neighbourhood and the connection with the world in general (Yanguas, Sancho, Del Barrio, 2012).
The importance of this “continent” where we want to live as we get older, is presented as an inescapable aspect when analysing this new scenario of ageing that is presented to us today.
The design of suitable environments for the person with dementia (also the elderly), which respond to their needs and preferences, is a discipline that has an increasing presence and impact in the design of person-centred care models, particularly in people with dementia.
An environment designed specifically for people with dementia can strengthen and stimulate the use of the capacities that are maintained, slow down their loss, and replace those that are being lost.
An environment considered, designed and executed properly to respond to the specific needs of the people who inhabit and/or use it can become a very useful tool to reduce the symptoms associated with dementia such as ambulation, disorientation, agitation, social withdrawal and others.
4.1.2 Environments and quality of life.
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines the subjective dimension of the Quality of Life concept as “the perception that an individual has of his place in existence, in the context of the culture and value system in which he lives and in relationship with your goals, your expectations, your standards, your concerns. It is a very broad concept that is influenced in a complex way by the physical health of the subject, his psychological state, his level of independence, his social relationships, as well as his relationship with the essential elements of his environment.
Therefore, the importance of the environment is recognized within the essential factors that determine our quality of life and physical and emotional satisfaction: People are more autonomous and independent if the environment that surrounds us (both physical and social) not only allows it, but also facilitates it.