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Making the outside world dementia-friendly: Design issues and considerations

Mitchell, Lynne; Burton, Elizabeth; Raman, Shibu; Blackman, Tim; Jenks, Mike; Williams, Katie


Lynne Mitchell

Elizabeth Burton

Shibu Raman

Tim Blackman

Mike Jenks

Katie Williams
Professor and Research Centre Director


Design guidelines for dementia care homes have, in recent years, acknowledged the important role the internal environment plays in influencing the functional capabilities and emotional well-being of people with dementia. However, although the majority of people with dementia live in the community, similar guidance does not exist in relation to the outdoor environment. To identify aspects of design that should be considered in making the outside world dementia-friendly an analysis of the literature on the needs of older people with dementia and on current knowledge of best practice for internal environments was carried out. By drawing parallels with the outside environment this paper demonstrates that design solutions do potentially exist which would enable older people with dementia to continue to negotiate and use their local neighbourhoods. Familiarity, legibility, distinctiveness, accessibility, comfort, and safety all appear to have a major influence. Small street blocks with direct, connected routes and good visual access, varied urban form, and architectural features, and distinctive, unambiguous environmental cues could enhance successful orientation and wayfinding. Services and facilities within walking distance with adequate seating, lighting, shelter, and well-maintained, smooth, level, plain paving would ameliorate attending problems of physical frailty. The authors are now empirically testing these initial findings.


Mitchell, L., Burton, E., Raman, S., Blackman, T., Jenks, M., & Williams, K. (2003). Making the outside world dementia-friendly: Design issues and considerations. Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design, 30(4), 605-632.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Jan 1, 2003
Journal Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design
Print ISSN 0265-8135
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Not Peer Reviewed
Volume 30
Issue 4
Pages 605-632
Keywords dementia, design for dementia
Public URL
Publisher URL