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

This interdisciplinary research investigated current design and application of Multi Sensory Environments (MSEs) in dementia care (also referred to as 'Sensory Rooms' in a care-home context), including aesthetic qualities and functional parameters. Because little documented design guidance for MSEs for older people with dementia exists, the research focused on establishing new knowledge from which coherent, user-centred design solutions were developed - improving the experience of such spaces and contributing towards improved care services for those living with dementia, especially in late stages of the condition, their relatives and care givers.

An ethnographic study examined the quality of existing facilities in 16 care-homes in the Greater London and Southampton area. This survey revealed the impact of poor design in the form of aesthetically and functionally inappropriate installations, set-ups and accessories, as well as the lack of knowledge and guidance for care practitioners about how to facilitate sensory activities and environments for older people with dementia. The findings informed the development of initial guidelines for sensory design in dementia care, published in the form of a guidebook entitled How to make Sensory Room for people living with dementia. This online resource aims to support carers, care-home staff and health care practitioners to facilitate sensory spaces that respond to the specific needs of individuals living with dementia and their families.

This project, a cross-institutional collaboration between Kingston University and University of Southampton, was funded by the AHRC. 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 (now Reader at Brunel University).

Project duration

March 2013 - August 2014


"Sensory design for dementia care - the benefits of textiles" Jakob, Anke and Collier, Lesley (2017) Journal of Textile Design Research and Practice; doi: 10.1080/20511787.2018.1449078

"Sensory enrichment for people living with dementia : increasing the benefits of multisensory environments in dementia care through design" Jakob, Anke and Collier, Lesley (2017) Design for Health; doi: 10.1080/24735132.2017.1296274

"The multisensory environment (MSE) in dementia care: examining its role and quality from a user perspective" Collier, Lesley and Jakob, Anke (2017)  HERD: Health Environments Research & Design Journal; doi:10.1177/1937586716683508 


How to make a Sensory Room for people living with dementia: A Guide Book