Decreasing spatial disorientation in care-home settings: How psychology can guide the development of dementia friendly design guidelines

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Alzheimer’s disease results in marked declines in navigation skills that are particularly pronounced in unfamiliar environments. However, many people with Alzheimer’s disease eventually face the challenge of having to learn their way around unfamiliar environments when moving into assisted living or care-homes. People with Alzheimer’s disease would have an easier transition moving to new residences if these larger, and often more institutional, environments were designed to compensate for decreasing orientation skills. However, few existing dementia friendly design guidelines specifically address orientation and wayfinding. Those that do are often based on custom, practice or intuition and not well integrated with psychological and neuroscientific knowledge or navigation research, therefore often remaining unspecific. This paper discusses current dementia friendly design guidelines, reports findings from psychological and neuropsychological experiments on navigation and evaluates their potential for informing design guidelines that decrease spatial disorientation for people with dementia.

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