Enhancing the Experience of Growing Older with the Help of Specialist Interior Designers [Interview][Transcript]


Presenter: Wayne Bucklar
Guest Bio: Born in Perth, WA, Debbie has travelled extensively, living in New York and Europe for several years, which she believes was a huge influence in her design ideas. Debbie is passionate about creating beautiful environments incorporating spaces that work well for both residents and staff using, amongst many things, the principals of universal design. She has extensive knowledge and understanding of the specific needs of our seniors including mobility, dementia, visual and hearing impairments – just some of the factors which need to be taken into consideration when designing in this specialized area. Debbie, together with her skilled team at deFiddesign are dedicated to changing and enhancing the image and experience of growing older.

Segment overview: In today’s Health Supplier Segment, Debbie de Fiddes who is the Managing Director of deFiddesign joins us to discuss the various interior design services that they offer which include projects in residential, commercial and hospitality. Debbie and her team at deFiddesign recently produced interior environment guidelines commissioned by the NSW Government of Australia and most recently are involved as specialist consultants for a considerable new aged care development in Hong Kong. Under Debbie’s leadership, deFiddesign is committed to being at the forefront of innovative design for dementia, attending conferences, workshops and HammondCare Design School as well as working on research projects both individually and collaboratively with various organizations.


Health Professional Radio

Wayne Bucklar: You’re listening to Health Professional Radio. My name is Wayne Bucklar and my guest today is Debbie deFiddes. Now Debbie is based in Western Australia in Perth and represents today her company. She’s the managing director of deFiddesign. Debbie welcome to Health Professional Radio.

Debbie deFiddes: Thank you very much Wayne. Good to be here.

W: Now Debbie because we broadcast all over the place, tell us what is your geographic footprint? Where about do you service?

D: We service quite a wide footprint actually Wayne from most of Australia to New Zealand. And also currently we’re just doing a project in Hong Kong and soon to be doing some consulting work as well in Singapore. So our footprint goes quite wide.

W: It does indeed. Now what it is that you do? What are your products and services?

D: Okay. Well we’re a specialized interior design company and we specialize in design primarily for aged care, also for retirement and we are specialists in dementia design.

W: I see, that’s quite a specialized field. And dementia design is one of those things that’s sadly under down I think.

D: Well totally, and we see it all the time. And creating and enabling environment I suppose is what we focus on because the more that you can get the environment right, the better it is for the residents who live there and also for staff and family. So it’s not a straight forward, it’s a way of designing, there’s a lot more involved.

W: Yes, I can imagine there is. In fact my parents are in aged care and still quite recently they had those wonderful hospital style floors where the vinyl comes together a meter up to the wall, down the walls, slopy corner so it’s easy to mop, across the floor and up the other side and they’re both always complaining that they are walking into the walls. And when I went to visit them I found out why, you have to pay attention to see the difference between the wall and the floor.

D: Absolutely. That’s one of the issues that we find in a lot of facilities, is that people who are involved in the design they’re not taking into consideration the aging eye. And that’s one of the things that I really hone in and in regards to workshops that I do is actually really looking at the implications and issues in regards to an aging eye.

W: Yes, I can believe it’s an issue. I have to say I’m not yet of old age retirement age…

D: (laugh)

W: but I’m getting on. And the things that I used to see so clearly are not so clear anymore.

D: Well that’s exactly right and it starts to deteriorate really once we reach 60 which is a bit sad because I’m only 5 years off that.

W: (laugh)

D: But it really does deteriorate quite rapidly. And I quite often in my workshops use things like yellowing goggles to people to put on, so that they can actually view things. And then they get much more of an understanding as to why it’s so critical to do the things that we do in design, getting contrast right, making sure that people can quite clearly see where doors are, where door frames are, that the floor, where the floor. And just you were talking about where the floor and the wall begins because if you have the same color on the floor running up the wall, then someone who has an aging eye just cannot see where the floor finishes and the floor begins.

W: I can absolutely sympathize with that. Now Debbie most of our audience are clinicians, about 95% of them are doctors, nurses, and allied health professionals normally working on either aged care or acute care settings. What’s the message you’d like them to take away from our chat today?

D: Well I guess what we’ve certainly seen by firsthand experience is if you take the environment right, it certainly works for the resident and works for the resident families. But even more importantly, it really works for the staff. So it means that they have a much calmer environment to work in, things like less falls, less agitation so having the correct furniture and equipment also means less injuries to staff. So it’s vitally important that you do get the environment right because it will create a much, much better working environment to the staff and well-being for everybody really which is what we focus on when we get involved in the design.

W: You’re listening to Health Professional Radio with Wayne Bucklar and today I’m in conversation with Debbie deFiddes. Debbie is the managing director of deFiddesign in Western Australia. Debbie my favorite question when I’m chatting on air, what’s the biggest misconception amongst your customers and clients about your products and services that drives you nuts and keeps you awake at night?

D: (laugh) It’s a really good question and I guess the thing that really, really annoys me is that a lot of people will term us as being cushion fluffers, decorators that just come in and make the environment look nice. And whilst obviously we do make the environment look nice, that’s an important part of what we do, there so much more involved in the design process. And as I said previously, our whole focus is on making it an enabling environment and I think a lot of people don’t understand that. And quite often we don’t get involved in the process early enough to actually be beneficial in making recommendations in the design. So I think there is a misconception out there that companies such as mine are just involved in fluffing up cushions and making it look nice.

W: So design that makes the difference in dementia care and residential aged care living. Debbie deFiddes it’s been a pleasure having you on the air with us this morning. Thank you for your time.

D: Thanks very much Wayne. It was a pleasure to be on air.

W: Debbie where do people get in touch with you?

D: Well they can certainly get in touch with us via our website which is www.defiddesign.com.au or via our telephone which is 08 9386 9733.

W: That number was in Australia 08 9386 9733. And the website if you missed it, I’s defiddesign it’s D E F I D D E S I G N dot com dot au (defiddesign.com.au). Debbie as I said it’s been a pleasure having you on with us. Thank you very much. If you just missed my conversation with Debbie this morning, there’s a transcript available on our website at www.hpr.fm. And you can also hear the audio on SoundCloud or on YouTube. This is Wayne Bucklar for Health Professional Radio.

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