The city with its spatial dimension has a direct influence on how people with dementia live and move around in it. Although the link between dementia and spatial design disciplines such as architecture, urban planning and landscape architecture is inevitable, these disciplines have so far been reluctant to address the concerns of older people with cognitive disabilities in their research and practical efforts.
The Stuttgart University of Applied Sciences, together with the Wüstenrot Foundation, has taken up this issue and initiated and carried out the "Wohnen Stadt Demenz" (Living City Dementia) teaching research project under the direction of Prof. Dr. Christina Simon-Philipp. The dissertation by Valerie Rehle, who coordinated the project as academic assistant, was also developed in this context. The three-year project ended last year and a book has now been published by the Wüstenrot Foundation, which reviews the approach and results and is now available free of charge.
The cooperative teaching research project examined the question of how problem situations and orientation and navigation strategies of people with incipient dementia can be identified in an external environment. The research project was based on the attitude that the search for answers relevant to practice requires a person-centred, qualitative approach and took this as an opportunity to open up the inner-scientific discourse to practice and teaching and to test new experimental and co-creative methods. The focus was on transdisciplinary cooperation between people with dementia, students of planning and design disciplines, teachers, and a reflective and impulse-giving exchange with experts from different disciplines.
In order to obtain snapshots and insights into the everyday actions of people with dementia, the cooperative teaching format "Where is my Mind?" was initiated by students of urban planning, architecture, interior design, communication and industrial design (ABK Stuttgart) and people affected by dementia. Taking up the perspective of dementia, i.e. openly observing those affected as they move through their familiar residential quarter and interact with built structures and people, presented a differentiated picture of complex challenges, needs, perceptions and potential. It turned out that not only neighbourhood-related structures and architectures influence the orientation of people with dementia, but also everyday processes and rituals located in the urban space, which relate equally to social, spatial and infrastructural levels. In a further step, design-based approaches to solutions developed by the students provided conclusions as to what dementia-sensitive points of contact can look like at the urban level.
The research process provided concrete food for thought and formulated strategies and design principles for the design of dementia-sensitive urban spaces: In order to enable people with dementia to live an independent and self-determined life in the city for a long time, transdisciplinary cooperation is required, which includes a cross-scale and co-creative approach involving all urban design disciplines and testing solution concepts in reality - in dialogue with people with dementia.