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.

Image a room with curtains which are lit up blue and a lamp emitting pink and orange light in the corner

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.

Further links for more information:

Researchers on the project

  • Dr Anke Jakob (PI), Senior Lecturer, Kingston School of Art, Kingston University.
  • Prof Lesley Collier (Co-I), at the time of the project, Senior Lecturer in Occupational Therapy, University of Southampton; now Head of Department, Faculty of Health and Wellbeing, University of Winchester.

Project duration

March 2013 - August 2014

A living room with a fireplace and a chair with a blanket and cushion on it



"Paradise Room: how the sensory room can become a desirable destination for residents in care homes. Jakob, Anke (2022). In Design for people living with Dementia. Ed. Rodgers, Paul A., Routledge, London. ISBN 9780367554750.


"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