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The Multi Sensory Environment (MSE) in dementia care: the role of design

This interdisciplinary research aims to explore the quality of multi-sensory stimulation offered in homes caring for residents living with dementia, and whether design can help to improve such experiences maximising their benefits.

The project, which is funded by the AHRC, evolved from broader consideration in respect to the rising number of people affected by dementia, the rapid growth of an ageing population, the over-prescribed use of antipsychotic medication and the need for cost-effective interventions supporting dementia care. Within this context, strategies of providing specific sensory experiences are examined focusing on Multi Sensory Environments (MSEs) used in dementia care as both a resource for meaningful leisure activity and a therapeutic intervention.

The project investigates the current design and application of MSE facilities, including aesthetic qualities and functional parameters, within a care home context. Because little documented design guidance for MSEs for older people with dementia exists, the overall purpose of the research is to establish new knowledge from which coherent, user-centred design solutions can be developed. In this respect, the research outcomes will potentially contribute towards improved care services for those living with dementia.

This project is a cross-institutional collaboration between Kingston University and University of Southampton. One of the country's leading social and health care providers, Care UK supports the research as a Project Partner.

Researchers on the project

  • Dr Anke Jakob (PI), Design Research Fellow, Kingston School of Art, Kingston University.
  • Dr Lesley Collier (Co-I), Researcher and Senior Lecturer in Occupational Therapy, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Southampton.

Advisory Panel of Experts

  • Prof. Hilary Dalke, Kingston School of Art, Kingston University (Panel Chair)
  • Prof. Paul Chamberlain, Lab4Living Design Director and Head of Art and Design Research Centre, Sheffield Hallam University
  • Prof. Mary Chambers, Faculty of Health, Social Care and Education, Kingston University and St George's University of London
  • Alessio Corso, Product Designer and Lecturer, London South Bank University
  • Fiona Fowler, Managing Director, Dementia Works Ltd
  • Maizie Mears-Owen, Head of Dementia, Care UK
  • Jane Roberts, Chief Officer, Worcester Snoezelen

Project duration

March 2013 - August 2014


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Kingston School of Art
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