Towards a more inclusive Singapore: Designing Dementia-Friendly Neighbourhoods

Calendar 2 Feb 2024
Time 3.00 pm – 4.30 pm, GMT+8
Location MND Auditorium, MND Annex A, 5 Maxwell Road, Singapore 069110
cpd1 SILA CPD Pts, 1 SIP CPD Pts, 2 BOA-SIA CPD Pts

This lecture has ended.


Lecture Poster (PDF: 265 KB)

Lecture Video and Photos



Singapore’s first ground-up research-based study on dementia-friendly neighbourhoods was launched on 2 December 2023 in the Yio Chu Kang Constituency, by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Mr Yip Hon Weng, Advisor to Yio Chu Kang Grassroots Organisations.

Driven by CLC, the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC), and the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD), with support from Yio Chu Kang Grassroots Organisations, the Dementia-Friendly Neighbourhood Study set out to develop locally-validated design guidelines for creating neighbourhoods inclusive to people living with dementia, especially in Singapore’s high-rise, high-density urban context.

In this Lecture Series, we share the impetus for and objectives of the Study, its process and partnerships, the extensive considerations for programming and designing a dementia-friendly neighbourhood, what it took to transform a constituency into a dementia-friendly one, and what it will continue to take as we work towards proliferating dementia-friendly neighbourhoods across Singapore to create a more inclusive home for all.

Lecture Report

The CLC Lecture, Towards a more inclusive Singapore: Designing Dementia-Friendly Neighbourhoods, was held on 2 February 2024 as part of a sustained effort to promote and build mindshare on planning and designing Dementia-Friendly Neighbourhoods. Attended by nearly 300 participants, this lecture featured highlights from the Dementia-Friendly Neighbourhoods Research Study which was conducted by CLC in partnership with the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC), the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD), and the Yio Chu Kang Grassroots Organisation.

The lecture opened with an address from Hugh Lim, Executive Director, CLC, and presentations from Yip Hon Weng, Advisor to Yio Chu Kang Grassroots Organisation; See Yen Theng, Chief, Caregiving and Community Mental Health, AIC; and Dr. Chong Keng Hua, Associate Professor of Architecture and Sustainable Design, SUTD. This was followed by a panel discussion moderated by Elaine Tan, Director (Research), CLC.

Creating Dementia-Friendly Neighbourhoods requires partnership with many stakeholders

One of the key themes discussed was that the creation of dementia-friendly neighbourhoods requires close partnership with a range of stakeholders and partners who are aligned to the same goal. This means having community partners at a localised level who would own and sustain the dementia-friendly initiatives, partners at the national level who can strategically incorporate dementia-friendly considerations into policies, and a range of strategic partners to provide additional resources and support in building capabilities and supporting implementation.

Advisor Yip highlighted the Dementia-Friendly Neighbourhoods Study as an example of how partner agencies could leverage on each other’s projects. Through CLC and AIC’s research study, the Yio Chu Kang grassroots organisation was able to widen efforts to implement dementia-friendly initiatives, while keeping within the Town Council’s budget; conversely, CLC and AIC could tap on the timeline of Yio Chu Kang’s Repair and Redecoration (R&R) works to pilot dementia-friendly design.

Ms See cited the partnership between the research study team and service providers in Yio Chu Kang, such as Thye Hwa Kwan Moral Charities and AWWA Community Outreach Teams. As the study’s design solutions had to combine both infrastructure and programming, the research study team identified local stakeholders who could support the design prototypes with programming. The partnership with the identified service providers enabled the implementation of programmes within the design prototypes.

It is important for such partnerships to continue beyond the duration of the Study. In the case of Yio Chu Kang, Advisor Yip shared that the grassroots organisations are actively and continually working with partners to pilot new programmes for persons living with dementia and the elderly, to complement the many infrastructure-related initiatives that have been implemented.

Design solutions should adhere to dementia-friendly design principles and prioritise user needs

The users themselves are a key stakeholder in dementia-friendly design. Dr Chong emphasised that designers should focus on solutions and elements that are most functional and beneficial for the user, when creating dementia-friendly design. He noted that the design prototypes for the Study went through multiple iterations. With each iteration, the team continuously simplified the design, ensured that every element in the design had a strong case for being present, and most importantly, that the design was relevant to the user’s needs.

Dr Chong stressed that there should be a focus on simplicity but without degrading designs to simplistic solutions. By adhering to dementia-friendly design principles, design solutions can be focused in serving user needs and not aesthetics for its own sake. For instance, the Buoy exemplifies “the less is more” approach, whereby minimal changes were made to the environment. Instead, the design, like the other Study prototypes, went through a selective and iterative process, where only key elements (e.g., key directional information) were retained.

“Context is king” when it comes to applying dementia-friendly design

Finally, while broad dementia-friendly design principles can and should be applied across neighbourhoods, the panel highlighted that there is no one-size-fits-all design solution for all neighbourhoods. With these principles as a guide, built environment professionals should engage the community to uncover insights from persons living with dementia and the general resident population in the locale. Working closely with local neighbourhood stakeholders will also uncover specific challenges that needs to be addressed and opportunities to leverage on.

It is also useful to conduct environmental audits of the neighbourhood, to identify key routes taken by persons living with dementia, or existing spaces that are already familiar to residents. For instance, the Dementia-Friendly Neighbourhood Study identified the neighbourhood’s Blue Court as an existing community space, albeit underutilised. It was subsequently selected as a site for the prototype as it was easily identifiable by persons living with dementia and the general resident population. Dementia-friendly principles were then used to enhance the site.

The context (e.g., spaces, routes of residents) of every neighbourhood is different. For the Dementia-Friendly Neighbourhood Study, it meant identifying the Blue Court as an intervention site – an underutilised existing space along a key route taken by persons living with dementia.

Scaling up of Dementia-Friendly Design Principles

The lecture concluded on an optimistic note as the panel acknowledged that this marks just the beginning of creating dementia-friendly neighbourhoods. During the discussion, panel members expressed their shared vision for expanding the creation of dementia-friendly neighbourhoods. Some proposed scaling up through the Age Well Initiative, integrating dementia-friendly design principles into selected precincts beyond Yio Chu Kang. The goal is to observe how these principles can be applied effectively in estates with varying characteristics and population densities.

Others suggested an approach involving the incorporation of dementia-friendly principles into existing Environmental Audit Toolkits. This initiative aims to empower ground staff and town councils, enabling them to conduct audits and enhance the dementia-friendliness of their respective neighbourhoods. Additionally, some panel members emphasised the importance of piloting additional services within the estate to complement dementia-friendly infrastructure.

There was also recognition that stakeholders would collectively have to choose between trade-offs. As an example, for selected dementia-friendly guidelines to be included in the Accessibility Code, other guidelines might have to be tweaked or even removed. However, this section ended with a call to action – while Singapore cannot change the trajectory of its aging demographics, stakeholders can do the right thing by prioritising dementia-friendly considerations into Code, and to make corresponding adjustments in the infrastructure, health and social care sectors for a dementia-friendly Singapore.

Lastly, conducting long-term evaluations in collaboration with medical professionals was raised as a method to assess the benefits of dementia-friendly design to persons living with dementia and their community.

Overall, the shared commitment articulated by the panel, and the active participation from the audience during the Q&A segment is a promising continuation for the scaling up of dementia-friendly neighbourhoods. To carry on this momentum, CLC is working with our partners to further scale up the adoption of dementia-friendly guidelines, and will continue the conversation with stakeholders to inspire further action to make the built environment inclusive to all.

About the Speakers



See Yen Theng
Chief, Caregiving and Community Mental Health Division,
Agency for Integrated Care (AIC)

As Chief, Caregiving and Community Mental Health Division, Agency for Integrated Care, Ms See Yen Theng leads the building of sector capability and development of integrated mental health networks. She has been instrumental in the implementation of Dementia Friendly Communities (DFC) which aims to bring together health and social care providers, community partners, businesses and faith based organizations to support those with dementia and their families.



Chong Keng Hua
Associate Professor, Architecture and Sustainable Design,
Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD)

Dr Chong Keng Hua is Associate Professor of Architecture and Sustainable Design at the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD), where he coordinates collaboration and social programmes, directs the Social Urban Lab (SOULab), leads the MND-HDB New Urban Kampung Research Programme, and co-leads the Opportunity Lab (O-Lab). He is also a founding Partner of COLOURS: Collectively Ours, an award-winning design practice specialising in public space and social impact.



Yip Hon Weng
Advisor to Yio Chu Kang Grassroots Organisations

Yip Hon Weng serves as an elected Member of Parliament for Yio Chu Kang, a Single Member Constituency in Singapore. He is also a Director in Temasek looking at workforce and human capital strategy, policy and operations. He is a former senior Administrative Service officer in the Singapore Government, and has substantial experience working across many Government ministries, helming key leadership and policy positions.



Elaine Tan
Director, Research
Centre for Liveable Cities

Elaine Tan is the Director of Research at the Centre for Liveable Cities, Ministry of National Development, Singapore where she oversees research in the areas of climate change, resilience, ageing and health. Prior to this, Elaine was Director of Strategic Research at the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), where she spearheaded URA’s R&D efforts and directed key research programmes through Singapore’s Land and Liveability National Innovation Challenge, under the auspices of the Research, Innovation and Enterprise Council. Elaine was also formerly the Director of Architecture & Urban Design Excellence at the URA, working closely with the industry to advance the state of architecture and urban design in Singapore through new initiatives and programmes.


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