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Why civil engineers need to know about dementia

22 February 2024

Dementia affects millions of people worldwide. Understanding it can help engineers design inclusive and accessible spaces.

Why civil engineers need to know about dementia
Creating dementia-inclusive outdoor spaces can promote physical activity. Image credit: Shutterstock

Civil engineers play a vital role in designing infrastructure that’s accessible and inclusive for all, including those with dementia.

Here are some clear considerations:

Wayfinding and signage

Clear and easily understandable signage can help people living with dementia navigate public spaces, reducing confusion and anxiety.

Using high contrast colours, simple symbols, and clear directions can make significant difference.

Lighting and acoustics

Well-designed lighting and acoustics can enhance the comfort and safety of individuals with dementia.

Minimising glare, providing enough lighting, and reducing background noise can improve overall experience in public spaces.

Outdoor spaces

Creating dementia-inclusive outdoor spaces can promote physical activity, social interaction and sensory stimulation.

Using walking paths, seating, sensory gardens, and clear boundaries can enhance the overall wellbeing of someone living with dementia.

Public transport

Making public transport dementia-inclusive involves ensuring clear signage, easy-to-read timetables, accessible seating and trained staff who can provide assistance and support.

The ICE Benevolent Fund and Dementia UK

The ICE Benevolent Fund is working in partnership with the charity Dementia UK to raise awareness about dementia and how its specialist Admiral Nurses support families affected by the condition.

ICE members can book free confidential appointments with Admiral Nurses.

Book an appointment

What is dementia?

Dementia isn’t a specific disease but an umbrella term for a group of disorders that affect memory, thinking, behaviour, and the ability to perform everyday activities.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia accounting for between 60-80% of cases.

Other types include vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia and frontotemporal disorders.

Approximately 944,000 people in the UK are living with dementia and this is growing year on year.

Recognising the symptoms

As well as having awareness of dementia to design inclusive built environments, it’s essential that civil engineers are aware of the signs and symptoms of dementia.

It's possible they may come across individuals with dementia in various settings, including their own workplace.

Some common symptoms include:

  • Memory loss
  • Difficult with problem solving and communication
  • Confusion
  • Mood changes
  • Problems with judgment and decision making

By recognising these symptoms, civil engineers can provide appropriate support and adjustments.

Engineering diversity

The ICE values diversity and works to create a fairer environment free from harassment and discrimination - one in which everybody feels included and valued.

Learn more

Myths about dementia

Dementia is often misunderstood and there are some myths surrounding it.

Dementia isn’t a normal part of ageing

It’s not a normal part of ageing but it can affect anyone.

It’s more common as we age but can affect younger people too.

People who have dementia won’t all show the same symptoms

No two people with dementia will have exactly the same symptoms. How symptoms show can vary due to personality, life experiences, available support and type of dementia.

There are over 200 different types of dementia.

If an older person is confused, it doesn’t mean they have dementia

Confusion can be caused by many health problems so it’s not always dementia.

Dementia can’t be cured, but…

Despite there currently being no cure for dementia, research is ongoing, and with some types of dementia, medication is available to help with symptoms.

In the meantime, there’s a lot we can do to improve quality of life and support families living with dementia, such as considering the design of infrastructure.

What support is available?

Across the UK there’s no standardised post diagnostic service.

But here at Dementia UK, we offer support through our dementia specialist Admiral Nurses.

Dementia UK Admiral Nurses

Admiral Nurses specialise in dementia and give expert practical, clinical and emotional support to families living with dementia.

We’re registered nurses and have significant experience of working with people with dementia before becoming an Admiral Nurse.

Admiral Nurses provide clinical support in many places including hospitals, communities, GP practices and hospices.

We also offer advice and guidance on Dementia UK’s free national helpline and in virtual clinic appointments.

What can you do?

As civil engineers, you have the power to shape the built environment and make a positive impact on the lives of those who live with dementia.

By understanding dementia, recognising symptoms, and incorporating dementia-inclusive design principles you can create inclusive and accessible infrastructure that improves the quality of life for everyone.

Embrace this responsibility and work towards a more dementia-friendly future!

Learn more about dementia-friendly design

Helpful resources:

Our Admiral Nurse Helpline is here to provide you with specialist support, through our phone and email service.

The Helpline is open:

  • Monday to Friday: 9.00 am to 9.00 pm
  • Saturday, Sunday, and bank holidays: 9.00 am to 5.00 pm (except 25th December)

Tel: 0800 888 6678

Email us at [email protected].

Alternatively, you may wish to book a video or telephone appointment with a Dementia UK Admiral Nurse at a time and date that suits you.

Book an appointment

The Dementia UK website provides information on all aspects of dementia, including:

  • getting a diagnosis and types of dementia
  • support with symptoms
  • financial and legal support
  • how to live well with dementia
  • support for families and carers
Visit the Dementia UK website
  • Rachel Watson, Admiral Nurse - dementia at work at Dementia UK