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Creating a Memory-Friendly Restaurant Through Sensory Experience Design 

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Research-Based Design

Principal Researcher: Rezvan Boostani

Advisors: Dr. Jenifer Ingram, Dr. Gayle Nicoll, Job Rutgers


The main objective of the project was to enhance restaurant environment to be inclusive to individuals with memory impairment and further support well-being and social engagement. This was done by providing restauranteurs a greater understanding of the sensory design elements of the restaurant environment. This will enhance the quality of the dining experience for individuals with memory impairments.

This design research project developed sensory-focused design principles and interventions specific to restaurant settings in order to include people with memory impairment due to aging and/or early stages of dementia. This is achieved using participant feedback from real-world dining experiences to understand sensory-focused design elements that support a quality experience for individuals with memory impairment. Also, various stakeholders were interviewed to understand ways to support dining experience for individuals with dementia.

These stakeholders also provided feedback on the prototype of design guidelines. The outcome is a guideline of design principles, interventions and strategies aimed at improving the communal dining experience of people with memory impairment.

Design Research Methods:


This project used a mixed-method research approach. Qualitative data was gathered through the diaries with contributions of individuals with mild dementia and their family. Data from the available literature and statistics are examined, validated and/or modified in interviews with various stakeholders.


  • Diary

Couples, comprised of an individual with memory impairment and their chosen companion were asked to dine at a specific restaurant to Discover elements that support a quality experience as well as barriers for individuals with memory impairment in a restaurant setting. They further validated and modified restaurant journey steps.


  • Semi-Structured Interviews 

A Method for Validation and Modification

Two groups of stakeholders participated in this part of the research including

  1. Experts of the field: A geriatrician, an interior designer and a restaurateur were engaged to define goals, values, principles and strategies, complementing the design principles and guidelines based on the research to date;

  2.  Individuals with memory impairment due to aging and/or early stages of dementia and their family as expert on their own experiences participated to:Understand their social needs, social interactions, unmet needs, Understand the nature of their interactions with their loved ones, their challenges in restaurants, overall experiences, thoughts on restaurant guidelines and principles gathered from horizon scan, literature review, and diary.

  • Thematic Analysis

A Method for synthesizing emergent themes in data


  • Evidence-based Design Phase (Concept prototype, Design and Feedback Loops)

Prototyping and getting feedback

The design guidelines incorporated the feedback from each participant.This phase was complementary to the iterative prototype of design guidelines and helped to make essential adjustments to the prototype. 

Graphic Designed by: Rezvan Boostani | Icons from:


Evidence-based Design Phase (Concept prototype, Design and Feedback Loops)


The primary outcome of the study was a set of design guidelines for a memory-friendly restaurant. The final prototype of the guidelines is the product of multiple iterations of accumulated knowledge, participants input, and review. This set of design guidelines is based on evidence-based practices and best practices in dementia-friendly design. Additionally, it is validated by different groups of stakeholders including individuals with memory impairment and their families as experts on their own experiences. Other experts in this field, including a geriatrician, an interior designer and a restaurateur were all consulted. Design guidelines which include the memory related context provides deeper understanding for individuals who are interested in attracting individuals with memory impairment to their establishment.


To provide coherent understanding, set of design guidelines expanded to encompass the memory- related background as a rational for the proposed strategies. Defined needs, barriers and goals by became data for context and strategies. Feedback and data findings from interviews added crucial details to the guidelines either as action plans or examples.

Full report of the project and guidelines is available at:

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