A DESIGN school for people with dementia – which is thought to be the world’s first – has the potential to change lives, according to a Scottish expert who is co-hosting the event.

Experts will aim to teach people attending today’s school, hosted in Birmingham by the Dementia Centre, HammondCare, the vital skills required to become more involved in the process of designing dementia-inclusive environments.

It will be co-hosted by Dementia Centre director Associate Professor Colm Cunningham and Agnes Houston, a Scot who has been living with dementia since 2006 and has campaigned to improve the lives of people with the condition.

The event will be the first in a series of design schools, which it is hoped will result in a comprehensive bank of knowledge about dementia-inclusive design that can be used by architects, planners, developers and service providers to create better buildings and spaces for people living with dementia.

More than 850,000 people in the UK live with the condition, a figure that is expected to rise to two million by 2050.

It costs the UK economy £26.3 billion every year – more than cancer and heart disease combined.

Houston, a knowledge exchange fellow at the University of Edinburgh, has been a member of the Scottish Dementia Working Group for more than a decade.

Her background is in nursing and she was a chiropractic practice manager for several years.

In 2006, at the age of 57, she was diagnosed with early-onset, early-stage dementia of the Alzheimer type.

She said: “A design school for people with dementia has the potential to change lives. Using good design can empower people with dementia to remain a part of community life.

“It can build confidence and helps to keep us safe.”

Dementia-friendly design can significantly improve the quality of life for people living with the condition, improving their decision making, reducing accidents, lessening anxiety and helping them to live more independent lives.

The Dementia Centre is a leading international research, education and consulting service provided by HammondCare.

It is recognised as a world leader in dementia support, care and design. Its UK team offers a range of dementia consultancy services, with a specialism in dementia design.

Cunningham, who is also a visiting fellow in dementia design and practice at the University of Edinburgh, said: “The idea for a design school for people living with dementia came from a discussion I had with Agnes Houston.

“We felt there was a real need to increase the involvement of people with dementia in design. People living with dementia have in many cases learned to live with environmental barriers and have developed personal solutions to these challenges that people who do not have dementia could learn from.

“Our design school will give people living with dementia the unique opportunity to work together with design experts and contribute their ideas and knowledge to the creation of dementia-friendly environments.

“This school will place the person living with dementia at the centre of design, whether that be a home, a hospital, a shopping centre, a public space or a product.”