Place for sustainable happiness ‘a living environment stimulating the quality of life’

When living at home becomes too hard, seniors have to depend on sufficient time, attention and good care in a care institution. Care institutions cannot always meet these high expectations with their available resources. This has a negative effect on the quality of life of these seniors. Nearly 60% of these inhabitants suffers from a form of dementia. Moreover, the amount of people suffering from dementia is expected to grow in the future due to the ageing population. Subsequently, part of these people does not have a pleasant prospect on their last phase of life in a care institution. This research project investigates the life and needs of seniors with dementia in order to improve their quality of life (QoL).

People suffering from dementia are so vulnerable they have little influence on their own quality of life. They are often completely dependent on their physical and social surroundings. Neuropsychiatric symptoms (NPS) arise in almost 80% of the inhabitants with dementia in a care institution and have a negative effect on QoL. NPS consist of forms of agitation, psychosis and mood swings.

NPS emerge from an imbalance caused by other factors in the physical environment, within which this project focused on the housing factors spatial orientation, balance in stimuli and social interaction. The hypothesis was that NPS will decline these factors are stimulated and that indirectly the QoL of the inhabitants with dementia in a care institution improves. Sint Jozefoord was with this project one of the Empathic Living Labs, where the empathic environment for the future was built and tested in practice.

Design guidelines were found and divided over the three influencing environmental factors. These guidelines were placed in three building layers. This separation leads to different applications of the project, in present as well as new development projects.

Based on the architectonic guidelines from this research project, a tool was created for the organization: the ‘Inspiration Disc’. This tool was created to help create a living environment which stimulates the QoL of people with dementia. This tool can aid in different situations. The tool can be a starting point when drawing a program of requirements for a development or a renovation project. The tool can also support in making small effective adaptations in a space. Next to that the tool can help in analysing whether an environment is stimulating the QoL of the residents.

This project has contributed to the improvement of the care institution environment of people with dementia. This study made the broad knowledge in literature on architectonic guidelines improving the quality of life of the inhabitants with dementia in a care institution more accessible and concrete. On top of that, this project shows the essential role the physical environment can play in improving the quality of life.

This post master trajectory took place in the chair Smart Architectural Technologies under supervision of Masi Mohammadi (PI).