A Universal Design approach recognises that RLTC settings cater to a wide spectrum of people including residents, staff, visiting health and social care professionals, family members, friends, and various visitors. In this regard, an inclusive setting must support a diversity of users with varying physical, sensory and cognitive capabilities, needs and preferences.
As approximately two-thirds of RLTC residents may be living with dementia (Cahill et al., 2015), adopting dementia-inclusive practices is important for these settings. We must recognise that people will experience dementia differently, and that no two people with dementia will have the same symptoms and experiences.
Furthermore, considering the age profile of many residents of RLTC, they are also more likely to experience other age-related difficulties such as: mobility difficulties, visual difficulties, hearing difficulties.
These issues must be carefully managed to ensure a balanced design approach for Universal Design dementia and age friendly settings. Considering these issues within the framework of Universal Design will ensure that building design meets the specific needs of residents, while also supporting other occupants, family members, or carers.
A Universal Design approach also considers the built environment across all spatial scales as highlighted by Booklet 9 ‘Planning and Policy’, of the ‘Building for Everyone’ series (CEUD, 2014). This document argues for the inclusion of Universal Design at every level of planning.
”“Universal Design is the design and composition of an environment so that it can be accessed, understood and used to the greatest extent possible by all people regardless of their age, size, ability or disability”
”“Universal Design is not just about access to individual buildings; it is about how easily people can get around and to where they want to go. Key factors in creating an accessible environment are the location of services and of good transport links. Safe routes between key places that are designed to be easy to use by all individuals are another essential feature” (p27).
This holistic approach to spatial scales is picked up again in CEUD’s ‘Universal Design Guidelines for Homes in Ireland’ where they introduce the following four principles:
While these principles apply to private dwellings, they are highly relevant for RLTC, where there is growing acknowledgement that these settings should be first and foremost a ‘home’ rather than an institution.