SEOUL, Nov. 22 (Korea Bizwire) – Residents of a public housing apartment complex in Seoul’s Nowon District have seen their cognitive abilities improve thanks to a number of simple modifications and additions as part of the city’s “Cognitive Health Design” program.
The metropolitan government surveyed 403 residents, 202 of them in their 40s and above, and found that modifications like enlarging apartment building numbers and adorning walking paths with colorful decorations resulted in a self-reported improvement in cognitive performance by 30 percent.
With a rapidly aging population and concerns over cognitive impairments like Alzheimer’s that come with the territory, Seoul undertook a multi-faceted examination of the environmental influences that impact cognitive health, from which the idea for the Cognitive Health Design program was born.
Currently, 1,395 households live in the seven residential buildings of the complex. Of the residential population, 27.5 percent are seniors and 42 individuals have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
Besides the enlarged building numbers, sign posts that light up in bright colors have been placed throughout the complex. Flower beds have been planted along the walking paths, with birdcages, pinwheels and sundials placed as neighborhood landmarks. The hope was that introducing memorable sensory stimuli would enhance cognitive functioning and delay the onset of cognitive impairment.
Brightly colored plastic sunflowers, cosmos, and other flowers that were designed under the direction of a professional artist and assorted exercise equipment for light workouts have also been supplied to the apartment complex. For those up for a mental workout, puzzles à la “Where’s Waldo” and games like “Tuho” – similar to the game of horseshoes, except Koreans throw arrows or sticks into a pot rather than horseshoes around a stake – will stretch their thinking muscles.
In addition to better cognitive health, the city reported that the number of accidents dropped by 24.4 percent. Residents now go outside 39.9 percent more often, and 74.5 percent stated that their quality of life had improved.
In contrast, cognitive performance improved by 8 percent and the number of accidents declined by 3.1 percent among residents of a housing complex that did not receive these renovations.
The city is currently implementing the program at a public housing complex in Songpa District, with plans to introduce it to one more residential area next year.
A city official said the inspiration behind the Cognitive Health Design program was medical research that stated increased outdoor activity and sensory stimulation was beneficial to cognitive health.
Kevin Lee (firstname.lastname@example.org)