• Trinity College Dublin

Dementia Inclusive Hospitals from a Universal Design Approach

Use universal design principles to create hospital spaces that help lessen dementia symptoms and improve overall experiences.

A rainbow silhouette illustration of multiple people outside a hospital building

Make your hospital design as accessible and dementia-friendly as possible

Universal design involves creating a built environment that is accessible to all, regardless of age, disability, or other factors. Applying these principles to hospital design, to ensure proper care for individuals with dementia, presents unique challenges.

This three-week course from Trinity College Dublin will equip you with all you need to know about dementia-friendly hospital design. By the end, you’ll be ready to create spaces that foster excellent quality of life.

Apply universal principles to every aspect of hospital design

This course starts with an overview of the principles that should be applied to a built environment intended for dementia care before looking at detailed guidance for specific areas of a hospital.

You’ll also learn more about dementia symptoms, related impairments, and how these impact the way someone experiences a care setting. With these insights. you’ll make better design decisions.

Explore key universal design issues

As the course progresses you’ll look more closely at the design issues that have the most impact on dementia care, including hospital layout and scale.

You’ll see that collaborating with people who have dementia is absolutely imperative, and you’ll be guided on creating helpful environments in key areas across a hospital.

Learn from universal and hospital design experts

This course is based on the Dementia Friendly Hospitals from a Universal Design Approach – Design Guidelines 2018, which were written by Trinity College Dublin and other stakeholders, and co-authored by the lead educator of this course.

With such a strong understanding of how the built environment affects dementia symptoms, you can trust the College to deliver material that will engage and show you how to make a real difference in people’s lives.


  • Week 1

    Introduction to dementia inclusive hospital design

    • Welcome to the course

      This section outlines the Dementia Inclusive Hospital Design course, sets out the main learning objectives, and describes the overall programme for online students.

    • Thinking about the built environment and its impact on people in hospitals

      Let's meet Milly a long term patient of Tallaght University Hospital and then it is time to reflect on your workplace.

    • Designing for people living with dementia in the acute hospital environment

      In this section, we'll explore “Dementia as a Disability” and what it means to live with dementia and the challenges faced by those living with dementia.

    • Universal design: Creating naturally supportive environments

      This section explores Universal Design to provide supportive hospital environments that it can be accessed, understood and used to the greatest extent possible by all people, regardless of age, size, ability or disability

    • Guidance regarding design consultation and participation with key stakeholders

      Key client and patient stakeholders should participate in the design process to support patient-centred care and reinforce patient empowerment.

    • Key design issues for people with dementia in acute settings

      In this section, we'll explore key dementia friendly design issues that are integral to overall hospital environment design.

    • At a Glance—Universal Design Dementia Friendly Hospitals

      In this section, we'll incorporate the key dementia friendly design issues into the design of a hospital campus and inpatient ward facilities.

    • Reflecting on the first week

      Discussion and knowledge check

  • Week 2

    Applying dementia inclusive design across the hospital

    • Introduction to week two

      This week, we'll apply key dementia friendly design guidelines that we learnt in week one to internal and external spaces within an acute hospital setting.

    • Levels of design and intervention

      Levels of design and intervention

    • Applying a Universal Design Dementia Friendly Hospital approach across key spatial scales within a hospital campus

      In this section, we'll identify key spatial areas and determine how a Universal Design approach can be applied to each one within a hospital campus.

    • Section 1: The Hospital as a Whole

      In this section, we'll discuss patient orientation and wayfinding from public spaces to semi-private and private rooms.

    • Section 2: Site Location, Approach and Entry

      This section provides guidance regarding, location and siting of buildings and the quality of adjoining public spaces.

    • Section 3: Campus Design and Onsite Circulation

      This is all about looking at how we create the right circulation routes to make it as easy for all patients to navigate what can be very confusing buildings for the unfamiliar.

    • Section 4: Building Approach, Entry and Internal Circulation

      This section will describe critical navigational elements that are vital to a dementia friendly, supportive public hospital.

    • Reflecting on the second week

      Discussion and knowledge checks

  • Week 3

    Looking at key spaces and details

    • Refresher–Key Design Issues

      In this section, we'll review the Key Dementia Friendly Design Issues relevant to hospital settings.

    • Section 5: Key Internal and External Spaces

      In this section, we'll examine how Universal Design can improve patient interaction with key internal and external spaces inside a hospital setting.

    • Section 6: Building Components: Materials, Fit-Out, and Signage

      In this section, we'll review the effectiveness of internal building material, fit-outs, and signage to creating a safe, welcoming, and efficient patient experience within a hospital setting.

    • Section 7: Technology

      in this section, we'll determine the effective use of technology to assist people with disabilities perform everyday tasks within a hospital setting.

    • Section 8: Internal Environment

      In this section, we'll examine the effective use of light, heat, and sound to produce relaxing ambience within internal hospital spaces for people living with dementia.

    • Reflecting on the third week

      Discussion and knowledge checks

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and join a global classroom of learners. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Identify the symptoms of dementia and the impairments that can lead to disability.
  • Explain the role and impact of the built environment in terms of providing support or presenting barriers for human performance, health, well-being, and participation.
  • Discuss the importance of and methods for engagement and collaboration with people living with dementia (PLWD), family members in terms of designing inclusive environments.
  • Assess the specific challenges for PLWD in the acute hospital setting.
  • Describe Universal Design (UD) and how it can support dementia friendly design.
  • Discuss the key dementia-friendly hospital design issues as set out in DFH-UD.
  • Evaluate the hospital in terms of key spatial scales and key areas (e.g., Emergency Department, Inpatient Ward etc).
  • Apply the key design issues along with specific guidance to various areas across the hospital.

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for hospital groups, architects, design professionals, patient advocates, advisory groups, and anyone else interested in improving dementia care through universal design. No prior experience or qualifications are required.

Who will you learn with?

Who developed the course?

Trinity College Dublin

Founded in 1592, Trinity College Dublin is Ireland’s highest ranked university. It promotes a diverse, interdisciplinary environment to nurture ground-breaking research, innovation, and creativity.


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