Designing for People with Dementia

A national service provided by Dementia Training Australia

Creating a dementia friendly environment can range from designing a new building to rearranging the furniture within your current building

A dementia friendly environment is enjoyable and meaningful, taking into account a person’s lifestyle, background and interests, as well as being familiar and recognisable. It should be based on key design principles that support people living with dementia.

Our award winning Designing for People with Dementia Service can help you create a dementia friendly environment.

What is the Designing for People with Dementia service?

We provide on-site education, assessment and advice to care managers and staff, project managers, designers and architects.

We can discuss how to use an existing environment more effectively, plan a new facility or refurbish an existing one. We work in acute, residential and community settings across Australia.

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Architect and author of the Dementia Design Principles Kirsty Bennett leads our team with a combined expertise that covers architecture, strategic planning, interior design, landscape architecture, nursing, OH&S and operational management.

We can come to you! Our service is national and will typically include a detailed discussion of evidence-based dementia design principles, and an assessment of your facility or plan, with recommendations for improvement.

This assessment can be a component of DTA Tailored Training Packages

How can I access the Designing for People with Dementia Service?

Our Designing for People with Dementia Service can be accessed within a Tailored Training Package (TTP) or separately.



This service may help your organisation meet the Aged Care Quality Standards:

Standard 1: Consumer dignity and choice

Standard 5: Organisation’s service environment*

Environment Design Resources

DTA’s Environmental Design Service handbook introduces the full suite of resources for the DTA Designing for People with Dementia Service

Dementia Friendly Design App, Environment Design, BEAT-D, DTA

The Built Environment Assessment Tool – Dementia (BEAT-D) will guide you through an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of buildings used to accommodate people with dementia

Environment Design Resources Handbook

This handbook consists of 6 resources, grouped together into a single document. Access each of the individual resources below.

10 Key Design Principles

These 10 principles are the culmination of more that 30 years of research and practice. They are the backbone of the Designing for People with Dementia service.

Provide a human scale

Allow people to see and be seen

Manage levels of Stimulation – Reduce unhelpful stimulation

Manage levels of Stimulation – Optimise helpful stimulation

Support movement and engagement

Create a familiar place

Provide a variety of places to be alone or with others – in the unit

Provide a variety of places to be alone or with others – in thecommunity

Design in response to vision for way of life

The DPD Team

Meet our multidisciplinary team of experts

Kirsty Bennett

Lead, DPD Service

Kirsty is the lead for the DPD Service and brings her expertise as a practicing architect to this role, as well as knowledge from studying gerontology and being a voluntary caregiver.

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Kirsty has visited residential aged care and acute sites across Australia and overseas, focusing on how environments can empower older people.

She is co-author with Professor Richard Fleming of Dementia Training Australia’s (DTA’s) Environmental Design Resources (referenced under Standard 5).

One of the things Kirsty loves best is going on site (after a DPD education session) and walking around with staff and seeing the design principles in action.

“There is nothing better than seeing someone look around and say ‘Oh, now I see what you mean. All the corridors look the same! How could anyone find their way?’ And then start to talk about the simple things they can do to change them.”

Fallon Forbes

DPD Service Resource Manager

Fallon is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the DPD Service, as well as Case Management for DTA’s Tailored Training Packages.

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Fallon is based in DTA’s office at the University of Wollongong, NSW. She holds a Bachelor of Psychology (Honours) and has been involved with research projects focused on non-pharmacological interventions for people living with dementia and knowledge translation.

Fallon enjoys talking to people in many different parts of Australia about the DPD Service.

‘It is especially satisfying to be able to say to someone in a rural or remote location ‘Yes, one of our DPD consultants can come and visit your site’. These sites often have little access to training and education because they are so far from major centres, and residents have little choice of facility. Improving the way these environments can support older people makes a real difference’.

Tara Graham-Cochrane

DPD Consultant, South Australia
Landscape architect

Tara specialises in the design of healing and therapeutic landscapes to support the health and wellbeing of people living with dementia.

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Tara is the Director of DesignWELL Landscape Architects, and the author of Gardens That Care: Planning Outdoor Environments for People with Dementia.

Tara Graham-Cochrane has found that “the difference we make through running DPD workshops is immediately evident when you see attendees have ‘light bulb’ moments. Suddenly why a resident does something in a certain way makes sense, it is something in the environment causing the response. Staff immediately feel empowered with a solution to help that resident, which is a huge win-win for both parties”.

Ash Osborne

DPD Consultant, Western Australia
Registered Nurse

Based in WA, Ash is passionate about educating those in healthcare environments how the environment contributes to good quality of life for those living with dementia.

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Ash has over 30 years’ experience in the health and aged care industries as a Registered Nurse, educator, researcher and consultant. She has undertaken studies in Work Health and Safety, design and access. Ash is passionate about ensuring older people, particularly those living with dementia, have a good quality of life regardless of their physical, sensory or cognitive disabilities.

Ash has found it great to be able to sit down with managers and plan an education session that focusses on the most pressing environmental issues they are facing on their site, and then present the information in a way that is meaningful and relevant to the staff.

“It is always about the principles but there are so many ways of talking about them: our task is to find the best one for each place’.

Terri Preece

DPD Consultant, Victoria

Terri is based in Melbourne and brings operational expertise to the team through experience both in senior government positions and private facility management.

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Terri has carried out research and translated design principles into audit tools and guidelines, such as the DTA dementia-friendly community assessment tool.

Terri has attended many conferences overseas and undertaken a number of study tours, visiting environments for older people in the United States, Netherlands and the UK. 

Terri loves following up on the DPD education, dropping in to discuss progress and ideas with staff as they apply the key design principles.

“It is great to go back and instead of a seeing an uninviting entry dominated by clinical notices, to arrive and find a personalised door that reflects the environment within, and a welcoming sign with the unit name”.

Terri is also a strong advocate for Universal Design and as a member of the Australian Network for Universal Housing Design (ANUHD) she believes dementia friendly design is inclusive design and thus friendly for all.

Nick Seemann

DPD Consultant, New South Wales

Nick is based in NSW and specialises in meaningful and enabling residential environments.

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Nick is a director of Constructive Dialogue Architects and the author of several design guides for residential aged care design.

His professional work has focused on supporting community organisations and social service providers with both new construction and refurbishment projects.

Nick’s interest in designing housing to support older people and those with dementia began with his own experiences of seeing family members move into environments that were not supportive of their needs.

“My work has had a recurrent focus on improving existing aged care facilities, in recognition that current buildings often exacerbate the disabilities that have caused elderly Australians to move into them.”

Tara Quirke

DPD Consultant, Queensland
Registered Nurse

Tara is based in QLD and has seen how simple changes to an environment can reduce agitation, assist wayfinding and minimise distress.

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Tara has over 40 years’ experience as a Registered Nurse and has been the primary carer for two close relatives living with dementia. Tara has assisted in the design of an international award-winning unit and participated in research, such as the Dementia Enabling Environment project.

In her work in acute and residential care settings, Tara Quirke has seen how simple changes to the environment can reduce agitation, assist wayfinding and minimise distress. As staff increase their awareness of the environmental impacts on people with dementia, they are able to turn that knowledge into action which has a direct impact on people living with dementia.


Contact the Designing for People with Dementia Service