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Dementia Research

Natalie Rowe, Fanshawe College and Steve Crawford, McCormick Care Group
2018 – 2019


A partnership between Fanshawe College and McCormick Care Group created a research and design project for 25 interior design students studying health care spaces. The objectives include improving the quality of the user experience for residents and caregivers and using interior design to create an optimal plan.

Over one term, the students were asked to observe how residents at McCormick Home currently use their living space. They tracked the daily activities of people with dementia and how they interact with their surroundings in five particular areas of interest: dining rooms, recreation spaces, bathing areas, nursing stations, and wayfinding. The students were asked to identify improvements that could be made within the current building, which opened in 2006, as well as provide recommendations for new builds.


While some of the student groups focused on moving or removing walls, others focused on finer details of design like lighting, materials, finishes, and colour to assist with wayfinding. Replacing traditional serveries with open kitchens and introducing fixtures more reminiscent of home were suggested to improve the dining and bathing experiences. One group eliminated nursing stations in favour of using mobile technology so existing space could be repurposed for residents and families.

The partnership with the college enabled the students to see the benefits of potential careers in health care and elevated their level of attachment and compassion about the topic.



  1. Fleck, M. (January 2019). Designing for cognitive well-being in long-term care. Hospital News, pp 38-39.


  1. Rowe, N., Crawford, S. Engaging College Students to Improve Design for Human Centric Experience. This is Long Term Care 2019 Conference, Toronto, Sept 18, 2019. (Oral presentation)
  2. Rowe, N., Crawford, S. Engaging interior design students to improve design for human centric experience in long-term care environments through community collaboration. Fanshawe College Research and Innovation Day, London, March 20, 2019. (Poster)

If you have any questions, please contact Steve Crawford, CEO, McCormick Care Group, at 519-432-2648 ext. 2319, or by e-mail at