Dementia Services Development Centre (DSDC), University of Stirling – Written evidence (INQ0047)


  1. Research has proven that good design enables people with dementia, and age-related impairments, to enjoy a greater quality of life and remain independent for longer. With an estimated 820,000 people living with dementia in the UK, and numbers set to increase, there is an immediate need to invest in the ageing population and provide improved services and supportive design principles at home.


  1. Dementia is not a consequence of ageing, but the risk of having dementia increases with age and therefore designing for ageing and dementia should be an important component of any built environment. Typically, people living with dementia have greater demands on healthcare services; a quarter of UK hospital beds are occupied by people living with dementia who are over 65 (Lakely, 2009). Providing guidance on how to adapt living conditions allows people to stay independent for longer, improve their quality of life, and future proofs existing housing stock for years to come.


  1. Dementia friendly design compensates for the functional deficits associated with dementia (reduction in cognition, perception, and spatial orientation to name a few). Notwithstanding their specific benefits to people with dementia, they are also beneficial to the majority – a principle of universal design – and encourage legibility, familiarity, control of stimuli, maximising independence and enhancing self-esteem. It is well recognised that design thinking, applications of design, and technology can contribute to ageing well and with dignity.


  1. The Dementia Services Development Centre (DSDC) at the University of Stirling has been working for the last three years to provide dementia design information in a digital format to support people in creating dementia supportive environments.


  1. The DSDC is an international centre of knowledge and expertise which sits within the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Stirling. The centre is dedicated to improving the lives of people with dementia. Drawing on research and practice from across the world, the DSDC provides comprehensive, up-to-date resources on all aspects of dementia. In September 2017 the DSDC launched Iridis, an innovative app to help improve environments for people living with dementia.


  1. Iridis represents a revolution in the implementation of research based dementia design principles in homes, workplaces, care facilities and public buildings. Iridis has been made possible through a collaboration between the University of Stirling with construction and digital leaders Space, part of Space Group, BIM store and BIM technologies.


  1. Iridis is a digital version of the DSDC’s research-based Dementia Design Audit Tool, which up till now had only been available in paperback. The move to a digital platform makes dementia design guidance more accessible. Segmenting users through the app allows material appropriate to the setting and imagery for clear, effective communication.


  1. Providing the dementia design principles in a digital format has made dementia design accessible to thousands of people. Iridis is supporting families to make adaptations and/or improvements in their own homes to support the person with dementia to live well at home for as long as possible. Since its launch in September 2017, Iridis has been downloaded 2,089 times with over 42,000 impressions made. Without Iridis many of the design recommendations would not reach those most in need.


  1. Iridis also makes access to the dementia design principles more accessible for organisations, including hospitals and care homes. These organisations can now use Iridis to support improvements to their built environments, which ultimately will improve the lives of people with dementia who use those spaces.


  1. Iridis shares the knowledge and understanding with users from all backgrounds, including people living with dementia, family members, healthcare professionals, construction experts and designers, making it fully accessible globally. Users are asked questions about their surroundings, and asked to take photographs, as they work their way round the building. On average, it takes around 20 minutes to assess the suitability of a two-bedroom home. The app will generate a range of recommended improvements, which could be as simple as changing a light bulb, to more complex improvements such as reconfiguring bathrooms.


  1. The app provides guidance to the dementia design principles at the touch of a button, making evidence based guidance accessible to the general public as well as professionals. It provides people with dementia and their carers and families with the information they need to make changes to improve quality of life and increase independence. Iridis may in turn help enhance home and hospital environments for people with dementia – improving patient outcomes and reducing strain on health services.


  1. The app also creates a new channel of communication between researchers, designers and the end user, harnessing the opportunity to collect data and continually update the app to improve results for future users. This methodology offers a completely new focus in the promotion of positive living for people with dementia: previous dementia design apps have focussed entirely on the dissemination of information rather than the practicalities.


20 September 2019