The Iridis app could help enhance home and hospital environments, improving patient outcomes and reducing the strain on health services. On World Alzheimer’s Day (21 September), Stirling University’s Dementia Services Development Centre (DSDC), together with Space Architects, launched Iridis to assess and provide feedback on how suitable a residence, care facility or other environment is for older people – particularly those living with the condition.
Lesley Palmer, Chief Architect at the DSDC, said: “Iridis revolutionises how we improve the day-to-day lives of older people and those living with dementia around the world. At the touch of a button, people with dementia, their families and health professionals will be able to assess how dementia-friendly their built environment is and how it can be improved.”
Iridis allows users to use smartphones and tablets to assess environments – such as homes or hospitals – to ensure they comply with dementia design principles, which in turn, helps to reduce confusion and risk. It asks users, including people with dementia, their family members and healthcare professionals, a series of questions about their surroundings and requests accompanying photographs. It then uses the data to highlight potential problems before recommending changes that could enhance the environment for people with dementia.
The app was launched as new research from the University revealed that the hospital environment plays a key role in ensuring a positive outcome for patients. The Older Persons Routine Acute Assessment (OPRAA) study found that a good hospital environment is safe, quiet, calm, and consistent, with clear way-finding signage in place. The survey aimed to explore the outcomes that are important to people with dementia who have experienced a hospital admission. Respondents reported that the hospital environment was important for ensuring a good outcome.
Experts say the app will allow people with dementia to live independently for longer and, in turn, could help ease pressure on hospitals. They also highlight further benefits to the health and care sectors, with hospital and care home environments vital in ensuring patients receive the best possible outcomes.
Ms Palmer explained: “There are around 50 million people living with dementia worldwide and we have already received significant international interest in Iridis, from the likes of Japan, India and China.
“We already know that improving the living environment can have a profound effect on the health and wellbeing of people living with dementia and latest research from the University of Stirling indicates that enhancing the hospital environment could lead to an increase in positive outcomes for patients.
“Iridis will advise and inform homeowners and health professionals of recommended changes to the built environment and, in turn, improve the health, dignity and independence of our senior population.”
Stephen Brooks, Director of Space Architects, said: “In the UK, a wealth of housing stock is categorically unsuitable for elderly living, we are in an era where people are living longer and we have a duty of care to offer a better quality of life and improved living standards to allow people to remain independent for longer.
“What we’re doing in association with DSDC is offering a service which will reduce the high cost of specialist care by creating and adapting living spaces for specific needs and future-proofing homes as individuals’ needs change.
“Through the introduction of our new Iridis App, people can independently assess a building and take, often simply steps, to make them dementia-friendly.”
He added: “By providing the right living environment we can help people to stay safe, physically active and maintain mental stimulation for longer.
“The information and data collated from app users will allow us to understand the needs of the elderly in even greater detail and with greater certainty, and we can apply this to future design and planning of our homes. The Iridis app will be a catalyst for improved design and the first of its kind that brings together intelligent data and residential design processes.”