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Dementia-friendly ‘house for life’ in the works

Australian and Emirati students are building a sustainable and dementia-friendly home that adapts to occupants’ needs as they age.

Taking its name from a flower that flourishes in challenging environments, the Desert Rose house will be built with smart technology and design principles that cater to Australia’s ageing population, including people living with dementia.

The team behind the project, comprising students and staff from the University of Wollongong Australia-Dubai and TAFE NSW, based the building plans on UOW Professor Richard Fleming’s work with the elderly, as well as innovations developed at the university’s Sustainable Buildings Research Centre.

Students have also been working closely with local aged care providers and Dementia Training Australia to help ensure designs meet the changing needs of occupants.

They have given thought to occupants’ sensory needs and worked on floor plans that support easy navigating, and will incorporate Internet of Things technologies to support active living.

Project manager Clayton McDowell said the home will reduce the stress placed on health services by including state-of-the-art design that supports independent living for occupants with age-related disabilities and diseases.

“The design aims to change the way the world views homes for the elderly with a house that is architecturally inspiring, celebrates life and demonstrates a house that is adaptable to an ageing person’s needs,” McDowell said.

Construction on the two-year project commenced today at the TAFE NSW Illawarra campus.

In November next year, the house will be disassembled and shipped to Dubai, put back together and entered in the Solar Decathlon Middle East 2018, an international competition challenging teams to design, construct and operate a solar-powered house. After the competition, the house will be shipped back to Australia, rebuilt and put on display at UOW’s Innovation Campus.

UOW vice-chancellor Professor Paul Wellings said many of the students involved have been volunteering their time to work on the project in addition to their studies and other commitments.

“Their dedication is admirable, and in years to come they will be able to reflect on making a positive contribution to a major and growing social challenge.”

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  1. Good to have yet another attempt at changing home design – just need developers to get on board. Hope this wasn’t conceived as a home in a separate aged segregated development. Pity about the ramps – this is the very thing that consumers don’t want as is “advertises” that the occupant has a disability. Better landscaping can overcome this small grade so that handrails aren’t needed or so obvious. Just need to regulate now for more liveable features in all new homes so that people of all ages can live there safely and comfortably throughout life. See also Livable Housing Australia.

    • Agree with Jane, great initiative. And the ramp is an issue and almost unavoidable in a prefab situation. There are solutions. One is to excavate below ground and rest the prefab on little piers but potential termite and damp issues. Alternatively a design that incorporates the ramp as part of the design and makes it a feature; part of the verandah or external terrace then it would be less obvious and stigmatizing. It shouldn’t just be an add on.
      Well done to the team!

  2. Jennifer Inchley

    I don’t think the ramp is an issue, l just think it would better with different plants. I personally like a verandah big enough for chairs an under cover as my parents spent a lot of time watching people going up and down street, an a verandah attached. . Design needs big open shower no steps, very large bedroom to allow commode or shower chair, skip the carpet . Power point waist hight as cannot bend low, kitchen big enough for walking frames, same as kitchen , clothes lower so don’t have to reach above shoulders. Oven needs to be wall oven, not under bench. Drawers under bench , not cupboards, Due to changes in eyes, lots of natural light but need eves to reduce glare. Contrast trim to distinguish doorways, taps shouldn’t be mixers, too hard to control. Water temperature controled.. Automatic sensor lights when you come into room. My dream to design for aged care. Also need charging space for electric scooters under cover but safe from harm. Outside seating needs adequate room to walk with frame .