Dementia design under the spotlight

Dementia Services Development Centre and Space Group launch new IRIDIS dementia design app

The app will help to improve environments for people with dementia

Experts have unveiled a new app that is set to revolutionise the design of care homes, workplaces, public buildings, and residential properties for people living with dementia.

A team from the University of Stirling’s world-renowned Dementia Services Development Centre (DSDC) have been working with construction experts at Space Group to design the app, which assesses how suitable an environment is for older people and particularly those with dementia.

Called IRIDIS, it is the first app of its kind and makes a simple assessment of a building, recommending changes that can be made.

“It will address physical aspects of design that impact on older people’s quality of life and their ability to live more independently,” said Lesley Palmer, chief architect at the DSDC.

“This includes lighting, colour contrast and noise.”

People living with dementia ,their family members, healthcare professionals, construction experts and designers using the app are asked a series of questions about their surroundings and are then prompted to take photographs.

We are creating a simple way for anyone to assess how dementia-friendly their environment is, and to find out how to improve their surroundings

It will then take just 20 minutes to assess the suitability of a facility for an older person.

Improvements the app may recommend will range from something as simple as changing a light bulb, to more-complex improvements such as reconfiguring bathrooms.

IRIDIS is an updated digital version of the DSDC’s existing paperback Dementia Design Audit Toolkit.

Palmer said: “This is a unique opportunity to revolutionise how we improve day-to-day life for older people and people living with dementia around the world.

“We are creating a simple way for anyone to assess how dementia-friendly their environment is, and to find out how to improve their surroundings.”

She added: “With around 50 million people estimated to be living with dementia worldwide, there is an immediate need to invest in our aging population and provide improved services and facilities.

This software will offer designers and contractors the new intelligence needed to facilitate and future-proof dementia care design

“This industry-leading, intelligent suite of software offers new methods of assessing our built environment.

“All of the guidance within the app will be underpinned by the research the university has carried out in this area.”

Stephen Brooks, director at Space Architects, said: “We acknowledge that there are variations of apps for guidance on dementia design principles and auditing the built environment, but none which have such a level of detail and have a direct and real-time results link to the construction and product industry.

“Previous dementia design application platforms have focused entirely on the dissemination of information, as opposed to harnessing the opportunity to collect data and strike a two-way channel of communication between the researcher, designer, and the end user.”

Design modification data collected from the app will allow IRIDIS to continually update features and improve results for future users.

What we are offering is truly ground-breaking and the software within the IRIDIS app will be one of the greatest advances to date in dementia care design principles

The data within the IRIDIS app will also make recommendations on property design and refurbishment for construction professionals.

It will be aligned to digital construction methodology, with links to the Building Information Modelling (BIM) provider, bimstore. This allows designers to search and download BIM objects from construction product manufacturers that are specifically designed and kite-marked to meet dementia care design standards.

Brooks said: “Creating fully-inclusive built environments is a considerable undertaking and highlights a new area under consideration for our ageing population.

“This software will offer designers and contractors the new intelligence needed to facilitate and future-proof dementia care design.

This is a unique opportunity to revolutionise how we improve day-to-day life for older people and people living with dementia around the world

“What we are offering is truly ground-breaking and the software within the IRIDIS app will be one of the greatest advances to date in dementia care design principles.”

Later versions of IRIDIS will include a more-detailed, paid-for service aimed at industry professionals in dementia care design and construction and healthcare professionals and providers.

These apps will be able to assess illuminance and noise levels, including other, more-sophisticated features.

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