Montessori Environments are based on a set of clearly articulated principles, primarily based on the original theories and principles developed by Dr Maria Montessori at the turn of the 20th century. A key element of Dr Montessori’s approach was the Prepared Environment, that is, transforming the traditional classroom into an environment for living and learning which gave children the opportunity to explore and develop at their own pace, according to their own unique needs and interests. The classroom environments she created had specific areas offering activities designed to stimulate the senses, and encourage learning and the development of social and interpersonal skills. In dementia, the areas of the person’s environment, whether at home or in a care facility which have been modified for older adults who are experiencing cognitive loss, may be considered as a “classroom” of life. The classroom is thus defined as any location where the person with dementia can be found.
Montessori Environments integrate this enabling philosophy into all aspects of their design and practice, from a mission statement that could potentially be adopted by organizations and programmes, to programming for individuals. Activities, roles and routines are created and presented based on the needs, strengths, skills, abilities and interests of individuals with dementia, and delivered in an environment that supports the cognitive loss associated with dementia.
Creating Montessori Environments is an innovative approach not only to dementia care, but to all aspects of aged care, that can be adopted for individuals, for groups, and as a philosophy of care. The focus is on "doing". Since programming is created based on individual needs, strengths, interests and abilities, the activities are meaningful to the individual, affording them the opportunity to enjoy an enriched quality of life by remaining purposefully and meaningfully engaged in the roles, routines and activities of daily living.
Montessori Environments support the person and are aimed at also supporting memory loss (when it is present) and addressing the many and diverse issues that can arise for people living with dementia. The innovative techniques used to create Montessori Environments are intended to engage people (both those with dementia and those without) in life and living. This is achieved by providing an environment that makes it possible for each person to find information, meaning and purpose in their day, whilst supporting losses and circumventing their deficits.