Design for Patients with Mild Cognitive Impairment

Posted by on Mar 3, 2023 in Behind the Design
Design for Patients with Mild Cognitive Impairment

There are many designs nowadays for specific patient groups to ensure that they feel welcome. This project that researchers are working on is no different. This new design is helping patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Continue reading below to learn about the research and the work that is being done for this group of people. 

Why Research for Mild Cognitive Impairment Patients

Researchers and designers have made significant advances in designing environments that meet the needs of people living with dementia. However, between 12 and 18 percent of people aged 60 or older suffer from mild cognitive impairment (MCI). MCI patients often have difficulty making plans, focusing attention, remembering instructions, interacting with others, and being independent at home.

Building the Cognitive Empowerment Center

In the first step, researchers reviewed the literature on assisted living facilities for people with dementia and case studies on adult daycare facilities. During design charrettes, researchers, designers, people living with MCI, and their care partners co-created concepts for the CEC.

The process resulted in a series of design goals, including:

  • providing spaces to learn how to autonomously perform everyday tasks at home (e.g., cooking)
  • fostering social interaction among members and care partners, as well as engagement with the community
  • maximizing safety and spatial flexibility
  • supporting environmental exploration
  • and promoting well-being through contact with nature, physical activity, and cognitive stimulation, while avoiding information overload.

Design strategies for MCI

The Four cores comprise the center’s program, which consists of interdisciplinary teams responsible for planning and implementing research and interventions.

Build Environment Core

The Built Environment Core is responsible for planning and designing the CEC in a flexible, safe, and engaging way. To support the CEC’s research and innovation processes, most spaces at the CEC are adaptable and outfitted with technologies. These include tunable lighting, controllable zone-based sound system, video cameras, and wearable tags, which can be used to allow testing of changes made in the built environment. For example, tunable lighting can be used to study the effect of distinct light conditions on the alertness of people living with MCI and the potential of sound masking to reduce cognitive load. (Source)

Therapeutic Core

The Therapeutic Core is focused on enhancing the physical, cognitive, and emotional well-being of the program members and their care partners. The CEC has several spaces dedicated to therapeutic activities, including conversation rooms with acoustic insulation to preserve privacy and semitransparent walls to facilitate orientation; a library with semi-private areas with computer stations and space for cognitive training; group rooms with rearrangeable furniture and partitions to host different activities such as large group lectures or smaller programs; and a studio for physical activity. Finally, the kitchen has an open-plan area with safe appliances to host cooking classes, stimulating functional independence and facilitating social interaction. (Source)

Technology Core

The Technology Core supports non-intrusive interventions that can take place anywhere in the CEC. For example, a mobile app increases engagement and adherence to the program, and smart sensor technology is used to collect information while maintaining privacy. The center also includes spaces dedicated to technology, such as a tech bar near the reception area where staff can help members with their technology needs and an innovation theater that provides a controlled environment for testing new technologies with members. (Source)

Innovation Accelerator Team

Interacting with all the other cores, the Innovation Accelerator team is focused on creating opportunities for all stakeholders to engage in co-design and research to generate insights on improving the lives of those living with MCI. This includes an accelerator area designed with transparent glass walls and an adaptable furniture layout where people can participate in different group activities, such as data collection for research, presentations, and discussions on prototypes of built environments and technological solutions, and think tanks. The transparent space ensures that research teams and members have continual exposure to each other, enhancing shared understanding and increasing engagement. (Source)

If this was an interesting article check out Designing For Alzheimer’s and Dementia Patients, Opioid Crisis Drives Emergency Department Reconfiguration, and Interview with Lyn Geboy.

Marie Wikoff is the creator of Wikoff Design Studio based out of Reno, Nevada. Her expertise in healthcare design has helped modernize healthcare organizations locally, regionally, and internationally, improving patient experience and outcomes. Her credentials include Evidence-Based Design Accreditation and Certification (EDAC), American Academy of Healthcare Interior Designer (CHID), the National Council of Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) and LEED AP. Contact Marie Wikoff

Source: Tonetto, Leandro, et al. “Designing for Patients with Mild Cognitive Impairment – HCD Magazine.” HCD Magazine – Architecture & Interior Design Trends for Healthcare Facilities, 22 Feb. 2023,

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