Designing with dementia in mind – the importance of including people with dementia into the design process

Dementia Diaries is a nationwide project by On Our Radar that brings together the diverse experiences of people living with dementia through a series of personal audio diaries, encouraging social dialogue, media and social media participation, and policy change. We have been using 3D printed mobile phone technology in order to communicate with participants up and down the UK since January this year. Many of them are activists raising awareness and sending in regular reports and feedback to the On Our Radar team in London, relating to policy and local events in order to improve services.

One of our Dementia Diaries participants is Gina Shaw, who is a dementia activist both in her hometown of Liverpool, as well taking part in nationwide campaigns. As an ambassador for the Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Friends initiative she is ensuring that the view of someone actually living with dementia is taken into consideration in projects. Gina is currently advising a local dementia friendly care unit in an new hospital wing in Liverpool, as well as advising another project in sheltered housing for dementia patients and the elderly. She talks about the importance of service users involvement in these designs:

“It’s a huge move forward to involve service users in the design process of centres like these. It’s really exciting and could mean that we can make a place of excellence in the future.”


Alongside Gina, Tommy Dunne from Liverpool has made an impact in his community by successfully campaigning for the world’s first dementia friendly slow lane checkout in his local supermarket. As Tommy explains, it allows people with dementia to go through the checkout without having to worry about people behind them in the queue, who may not understand why it can take slightly longer for a person with dementia to complete their payment. The pressure is also being taken off the cashiers, because they are to receive training on how to improve communications and services with people with dementia.

Tommy, a former train driver, has also been active in advising transport companies on how best to lay out their services and stations to make them easy for people with dementia to access.

Could Dementia Diaries help support your projects?

On Our Radar is looking to branch out and assist and communicate with other organisations and policymakers. The reports sent in by Dementia Diaries participants can be used for a variety of purposes, from providing feedback to companies and organisations to assisting in making services more dementia friendly. This includes advice on how to improve transport, care services, medical treatment, customer service, and general communications with and for people living with dementia.

Co-design and co-operation are of vital importance when building new projects, communications and, crucially, when policies affecting the most vulnerable people need to change. If required, we are also able to brief participants to discuss specific topics that would be valuable to organisations and policymakers. By spreading awareness on everyday issues, our reporters are able to report on things that matter personally to them, but also as part of a wider community living with dementia.

The project has been running since January 2015, with the plan of continuing to at least next September. On Our Radar has trained a group of 30 people living with dementia across the country to use simple 3D printed mobile phone technology, sending in regular diary entries to the team which are then transcribed and the audio uploaded for easy access and sharing to a designated website.

The aim is to raise awareness of dementia in honest and authentic ways, as well as advising service providers and policymakers in how to become more dementia friendly. Dementia Diaries also enables participants to benefit from peer support, building a helpful, motivated and social community of people living with dementia.

For more stories, go to and follow us on Twitter @DementiaTweets
To get feedback from any of our participants, get in touch @OnOurRadar or at


AAA Blog Disclaimer

The views, opinions and positions expressed by the authors and those providing comments on these blogs are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions or positions of the Age Action Alliance or any individual Alliance Member or associate.

To read the full disclaimer, click here.

Simple guidelines on Blogging for the Age Action Alliance are available here.

Post Your Comment