Dementia-friendly design solutions for dignified, independent living

Life3A’s designs for older people are based on the research and evidence of what makes a difference in their lives.


Since 2014, Life3A has partnered with the Dementia Services Development Centre (DSDC) at the University of Stirling, UK. The Centre is recognised as the international leader in dementia design. The partnership and knowledge exchange has led Life3A to develop its own design principles for best practice dementia design, which now form the DNA of our design process.

Research objective 

People living with dementia and age-related impairments have difficulty understanding and navigating the built environment. Life3A recognises these challenges and the broader issues for an ageing population and implement evidence-based design practices that improve the lives of people with dementia, their carers, and families wherever they live.

Ageing challenge 

People living with dementia face gradual impairment of their senses, mobility, and cognitive ability. This can dramatically reduce their quality of life. With a growing body of knowledge about how these impairments affect people, the challenge is to respond by creating living environments that help rather than hinder their quality of life. Beyond trip hazards and fall prevention, research is showing that dementia-friendly design can help an older person’s memory and help them retain a sense of identity, and dignity. Too few later living, lifestyle and care developments incorporate dementia friendly design, recognising the need to age in place. The total number of people with dementia projected to reach 82 million in 2030 and 152 million in 2050. In 2015, the total global societal cost of dementia was estimated to be US$818 billion. The need for change is urgent. 

Life3A solution 

Life3A’s research partnerships have led to the development of dementia-friendly design principles that enable dementia-friendly design to be embedded across the spectrum of later living. This means older adults can remain together wherever they live, helping older people to lead dignified and independent lives for longer. Life3A designs are conceptualised and developed by responding to our dementia-friendly design principles. These design principles are used to guide the vision and establish a consistent framework for design decisions throughout the project.

Familiarity: how the built environment and its elements are recognisable to seniors and how easily they are understood by them.

Legibility: Helping older people understand where they are and how to identify which way they need to go. Legible environments have an easy-to-understand typology, language and materiality that provide easy to understand hierarchies.

Distinctiveness: A clear image of where they are, what that room or space is used for, and how they are to be used. Distinctiveness reflects culture and character of their life history through colour, texture, forms and materials.

Accessibility: Enabling older people to mobilise around spaces and places they need, or desire to visit regardless of any physical, sensory or cognitive impairment.

Connectivity: How environments act as conduits and connectors for seniors and their family friends and greater community.

Safety: Enabling older people to use, enjoy, socialise and move around the spaces without fear of falling, tripping and becoming disorientated.

Individual choice: We are all unique. Environments must facilitate our diverse desires and needs. Environments should not adopt a ‘one size fits all’ mentality. We must consider the wide variety of lifestyles when designing for older people, so that every person is afforded the same level of choice.

Our dementia-friendly design principles are constantly evolving and being driven by evidence. Evidence and passion for later living leads to exceptional solutions. 

For more information

Frank Ehrenberg


Contact Frank Ehrenberg