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Ikea is designing prefab homes for people with dementia

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An offshoot of the company’s work in affordable housing

Bright kitchen with green backsplash and white cabinets. BoKlok

As the world’s population ages at a rapid clip, architects have started thinking about how to design for people with dementia, whether that’s through VR applications or recreating familiar spaces with “reminiscence therapy.”

You know something’s a hot-button design issue when Ikea gets in on it. Over the last few years, the furniture giant has been working with BoKlok (an affordable housing company Ikea co-owns with construction company Skanska) on a concept to transform its SilviaBo housing units into homes custom-designed for the elderly.

Rendering of elderly people on a terrace outside apartments. BoKlok

The flatpack homes will offer the same layout as BoKlok’s other affordable housing units, but include a few design tweaks that will allow dementia patients to live independently for longer. The modified homes feature kitchen appliances with physical buttons instead of digital controls and bathrooms without mirrors and dark floors, which can be jarring to people with dementia.

The homes also encourage outdoor living with therapeutic gardens and a community center. Though these changes might seem small compared to erecting entire villages custom-designed for nostalgia, BoKlok claims they make a big difference to people with limited motor skills and memory loss. The goal, as the company explains it, is to prepare the older generation for independent living and reduce the number of people who move into assisted living.

Rendering of housing complex with greenhouse and green-roofed community center. Boklok

”We see a growing problem ... that [people] are ending up in institutions where they do not want to end up,” BoKlok CEO, Jonas Spangenberg told CNN. “If we can crack the code where you can continue to live at a home or an apartment that is more suitable for you, even with various syndromes, we believe we could do a ... good thing for society.”

So far, BoKlok has built just six of the units for a pilot test that it hopes will be underway soon.