Sensory design for dementia care - the benefits of textiles

Jakob, Anke and Collier, Lesley (2017) Sensory design for dementia care - the benefits of textiles. Journal of Textile Design Research and Practice (RFTD), 5(2), pp. 232-250. ISSN (print) 2051-1787


The journal article discusses the role of textiles in facilitating sensory enriched environments and meaningful occupation for people living with dementia. It is based on recent interdisciplinary research, a collaboration between design and healthcare, that investigated the provision of multi-sensory experience for people with dementia living in care-homes, particularly the quality and design of Multi-Sensory Environments (MSEs). Through an ethnographic study this investigation unveiled significant design deficiencies of existing facilities in UK care-homes and profound lack of information amongst care professionals and care givers. The absence of textiles and its appropriate use was noticeable. From this research essential design criteria emerged which informed the development of initial design recommendations for setting up MSEs tailored to the specific needs of people living with dementia and their carers. Further, the article discusses the benefits of employing textiles in dementia care – either for occupation or within the environment. Sensorial qualities and psychological benefits are highlighted as well as the potential of applying advanced textile technologies. Further work is suggested regarding three aspects: proof-of-concept and prototyping implementing the developed design recommendations for sensory enhanced spaces to establish more evidence from end-user feedback as requested by stakeholders; investigating ways of how to achieve sustainable impact through adapting participatory design methods and conveying design skills and knowledge to care practitioners; exploring the potential of textiles and advanced textile technology for design for dementia.

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