There is unequivocal recognition of the relationship between the buildings we live, work, learn and relax in, and how we feel and act (Eberhard, 2006), with growing recognition of the importance of good care home design for promoting a positive experience for those who live, visit and work there (Innes et al., 2011). There is increasing recognition that care homes should not be medical institutions (Anderzhon et al., 2012), although there of course will be a need for medical supports as those who live there become more frail. However, the concept of home means so many things (to individuals, for communities and society) and the challenge for designers is how to create a space that serves multiple purposes; home for those who live there, workplace for care staff and a community within a community. Anderzhon et al. (2012), in their very useful book detailing 26 exemplars of design to meet the needs of older people, note two overarching principles that link these 26 exemplars: first that the physical environment is integral to the care being delivered and second that the design fosters a sense of belonging; a sense of feeling at home. Zeisel (2006: 74) highlights the importance of ‘multidisciplinary professional cooperation’ for the translation of complex concepts into designing places for people to live, work and play in and that are better suited to their needs: Cooperation enables people who work together to achieve more than the sum of each working separately. Even when people are through working together to solve shared problems, something remains: a knowledge of the other’s discipline and point of view; new ways to define problems; an improved knowledge of how to cooperate with others. Zeisel, 2006: 74.
In a practical approach to facilitate cooperation between stakeholders, we describe an innovative service established in Australia aimed at promoting knowledge and use of evidence-based design principles for people with dementia living in care homes. This service was established following recognition that the quality of care home design was influenced by the extent of knowledge held by the care home manager and the relationship between management and architects, thus highlighting the importance of a shared knowledge and vision of good dementia design. First we will describe the key features of dementia and highlight important global projections of the numbers of people who will live with dementia. Second we will consider key elements Communicating design research of the design of care homes that are seen as important for a positive living experience for those who live there. Finally we will describe the rationale for and preliminary outcomes of the Australian knowledge transfer service before outlining the elements we consider are necessary for successfully communicating design research to key stakeholders.