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Supporting dementia living while looking after the planet

Details about University of Wollongong’s (UOW) unique net zero energy dementia friendly sustainable home project, Desert Rose, will be revealed in a presentation at the ITAC conference in Melbourne next week.

The Desert Rose Team has been selected to compete in the prestigious international sustainable energy Olympics challenge in Dubai in 2018
The Desert Rose Team has been selected to compete in the prestigious international sustainable energy Olympics challenge in Dubai in 2018

Using architectural and technology that unobtrusively supports the independent living of its aging residents, Desert Rose will showcase how a sustainable home can create a supportive environment for occupants with dementia and other aged related disabilities. Furthermore, by incorporating the latest research into wellbeing, the team hopes to create a world-winning design for the Solar Decathlon Middle East competition which is being held Dubai, October/November 2018.

The team behind Desert Rose is made up students from UOW, TAFE NSW Illawarra and UOW’s Dubai campus, and it is one of 22 teams from 16 countries selected to compete in the prestigious international sustainable energy Olympics challenge.

Professor Tim McCarthy Director of the Engineering and Mathematics Education Research Group at UOW is very excited about the project. “The competition is basically for a sustainable house, but it has to do something to address a social need,” he explains, adding the idea of a dementia friendly house came from the students.

Lead student Clayton McDowell was involved with a low income energy efficiency program which involved studying over 200 homes in housing commissions, supported aged living and apartment houses. “Students were devastated by the poor conditions some people live in and how they don’t support the needs, particularly if a partner gets dementia,” he says.

Around 150 students from across several faculties at the university have signed up to the team. Graphic design and communications students are joining students studying engineering, architecture nursing and aged care, as well as trades such as plumbing and electrician, to work on the house. “It’s very, very exciting bringing the faculties together and we’re getting a lot of support across the university,” says Prof McCarthy. “Every student on the team has to learn about dementia and we’re also working in close consultation with Kiama too.” Kiama is aiming to be a dementia friendly community with dementia friendly places and dementia friendly businesses.

Still in its early planning stages, the team will be launching the project’s website on 6 December and will be releasing more plans and computer generated images of the house in February 2017.

The ITAC conference is held 28-30 November 2016 in Melbourne and is bringing together local and international experts across the fields of community care, residential care services, retirement living, medication management, assistive technologies and offsite information systems delivery. Other presentations include ecosystems enabled by technology and how evolving technology will impact aged care service provision.

These and many other critical aged care topics will be discussed from a practical perspective, highlighting the information we need to know now to better manage and design aged care service delivery.

The Desert Rose presentation is taking place at 1.15pm on Wednesday 30 November. 

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