Architect’s 3D plan for creating happier homes for dementia sufferers

A Newcastle architect is hoping his revolutionary approach to designing care homes will help make the lives of those devastated by dementia a little easier – and he’s been given a boost by Go Digital Newcastle to help him in his plans.

Roger Maier of CEAD Architects is developing a process to help carers and patients alike as they take an immersive 3D virtual tour round his buildings - while the plans are still on the drawing board.

Go Digital Newcastle, run by Newcastle City Council, has assisted this young company with a huge ambition via expert business advice, digital workshops and a match-funded grant.

Roger said: “The effect that living space can have on dementia sufferers and their well-being is something that cannot be overlooked – a well-designed space can reduce their levels of anxiety and give them a far happier experience.

“But people who commission care homes and extra care facilities sometimes struggle to visualise what designs will look like.

“So that means many architects play safe and design bland environments that can look very institutional – this is where the new software will contribute in creating an environment much more suitable for dementia patients, producing a happier life experience in care homes.”

Roger’s Building Information Modelling (BIM) system will use software and gaming technology to create virtual 3-D models of his buildings that potential residents can experience almost as though they were there.

He said: “Dementia is a very individual condition that effects different people in a whole range of ways, but often there are common anxiety-inducing behaviours that a good, flexible environment can help to alleviate.

“For instance, many dementia sufferers have a tendency to wander – so you build into your design activity areas that might help to attract their attention and persuade them to pause for a while.

“Sufferers often search constantly for something. In women, it’s often their handbag – so a box filled with handbags in a key location might give them something to stop and rummage in, and provide a level of satisfaction they are missing.

“Being able to ‘see’ how the facilities will look will mean we can gauge how people react to the features and adapt accordingly.”

Go Digital Newcastle’s business support programme provides free masterclasses, workshops, and one-to-one advice to eligible SMEs in Newcastle.

Funded by ERDF, the free support is estimated to be worth up £1,000 – and at the end, companies can also apply for up to £2,000 towards IT equipment.

Go Digital Newcastle also provides connection vouchers – funded by the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK programme - worth up to £3,000 for local businesses, charities and SMEs to get connected to superfast broadband.

Roger, who has been an architect for 14 years, started his own Ouseburn-based business 12 months ago after spotting an opportunity to make a big difference to care environment design. CEAD stands for Community Environment Architecture Delivery.

Go Digital Newcastle provided Roger with business advice that helped him to track down investment funding, and he also took part in the programme’s free workshops to brush up his online and digital skills.

He is now seeking a technology partner to help develop the software for his system, which he believes will be unique.

Roger said: “Go Digital Newcastle has been a huge help – when you are a new business, it really makes a difference to have this kind of support.

“I used the grant to purchase two tablets for the immersive dementia care environment experience and enhanced graphics capabilities for quick, high-quality renderings of my projects.”

Cllr Michael Johnson, Newcastle City Council Deputy Cabinet Member for Skills, Business and Enterprise, said Go Digital Newcastle business support had provided a huge boost for companies in the city.

“We’re nearly at the completion of the business support programme now, so I would urge local SMEs who haven’t taken advantage of it to sign up quickly – it’s a fantastic free boost,” he said