Creating Comfort in the Absence of Memory
As New Zealand’s population ages, so does the risk of developing age-related cognitive diseases such as dementia. Whilst most associate dementia with memory loss alone, the progressive nature of the disease can affect and create problems with thinking and behaviour, as well as memory. To date, there is no known cure.
Increasingly, rural areas such as Alexandra, located in the Central Otago region, find that aged-care services cannot meet the growing demand. This issue has had a negative impact on the local community, causing stress for individuals who must move far from their home - losing their sense of ‘place-identity’ and, therefore, ‘self’ in the process.
Stemming from the notion of ‘difference’, people living with dementia are equally at risk of being stigmatised due to the misunderstanding of behaviours and historical representation of aged-care architecture, which cut off individuals from the wider society. As a result, the unfamiliar and often unhome-like quality of these environments, alongside the stigma associated with cognitive diseases, can lead to a faster deterioration of a person’s condition.
Through a design-led research approach, this thesis explores the design of a ‘normative aged-care environment’ – one that can allow an individual to live well with dementia. An independent review of literature and a case study analysis established that integrating an intergenerational programme can promote a sense of community and remove the stigma of ‘difference’ through architectural intervention. By designing for community engagement, this thesis aims to suggest an architecture that can provide support and comfort to an individual in the absence of memory.