The meaning of home when you don't live there anymore: Using body mapping with people with dementia in care homes

Publication Name

Ageing and Society


The significance of home is broadly recognised as representing selfhood, safety and autonomy. For older people, especially those with dementia, the ability to age in place at home can be threatened by a necessary move into a care home. Home has heightened importance for people with dementia. We know most people want to stay in their own homes, but there is limited research which explores what home means for people with dementia when they move into care homes. Based in a care home in regional New South Wales, Australia, this study used the arts-based method, body mapping, to explore what home meant to people with dementia and/or cognitive impairment. Seven body maps were co-created by current residents (four), family members and supporters (six) and researchers (three). The findings of the body-mapping process highlighted that home is much more than a physical location. Home meant having the ability to carry out practices and rituals, use objects, maintain relationships and experience sensations that are personally meaningful, and which differ from one person to the next. Their body maps revealed that in care homes, people could not 'do home' anymore because many of the practices, objects, people and places that mattered to them were no longer accessible. Body mapping was a useful method that facilitated the exploration of a holistic expression of home that would not have been possible with more traditional methods. For people with dementia, home was not only embodied and spatial, but also temporal, helping us to understand the ways in which care homes might facilitate a greater sense of home for people with dementia.

Open Access Status

This publication may be available as open access

Funding Sponsor

University of Wollongong



Link to publisher version (DOI)