Last updated on February 25, 2022
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Enabling people living with dementia to share their view and experiences of the local environment is crucial to support them to play a role in shaping their local communities, so our experience that their inputs can influence local place-making. However, life is much more about the things we do and the interactions we have that make life enjoyable.

These resources aim to establish the role that the physical environment plays in supporting the lives of people living with dementia by assessing their experiences of private and public spaces, both indoors and outdoors.

OCN activities included environmental audits of buildings and services, private homes, and routes to get from one place to another.

Our experience

assignment_turned_inHow OCN put this into practice

Using community development and speaking to local residents, OCN identified the important central role the local Sainsbury’s supermarket played in one community.

OCN formed an environment audit group consisting of 3 people living with dementia, 3 carers, 3 volunteers, and 2 staff. We contacted Sainsbury’s and explained the project aims.

The manager gave permission for us to carry out an environmental audit, from a dementia-enabling perspective, and welcomed the opportunity for feedback.

infoFurther Reading
gpp_goodOCN Tips: What the OCN team has found useful
  1. Think about specific places such as your home, parks, shops etc, but also think about the journeys in-between places.
  2. Try to connect with decision makers or managers of services or councils who can take your recommended changes forward. Perhaps you could even get them to join your environment audit group? If you or your group want to audit a public building or private business, do seek the ‘buy in’ and permission from the owners or manager. This means they are more likely to support your aims and take on board your recommended changes.
  3. Try not to take on anything too large for your group. If the environment you want to audit is large, e.g. a public park, or the route is long, e.g. the journey between your home in one village and a central hospital, think about dividing the space or journey into smaller ‘bite sized’ pieces.
  4. Think about people's comfort. Is there a café everyone could meet up at to talk through their experience and fill in the environment audit tools after your trip or visit?

What tools for what audit?

The Environment Toolkit flowchart.

camera_alt The Environment Toolkit flowchart

Tools to assess private homes


A phone screen showing the Iridis app

IRIDIS is a free dementia design assessment application, based on the University of Stirling’s Dementia Design Audit Tool (Cunningham, 2011).

The app, which is available for smartphone and tablet devices, helps to carry out evidence based dementia assessments of home environments.

Assessment is divided into different sections for each space, including Dining, Lounge, Kitchen, Bedroom, Bathroom, Garden and other spaces.

We would suggest that participants select two or three spaces in their home that they would like to assess; for example the Kitchen, the Dining Room, and the Garden.

Iridis is available on Android and IOS (Apple) devices.

Conversations About My Environment

This tool is designed to make it easy to have conversations about how we manage to stay socially connected in our own home.

‘Conversations about My Environment’ helps us to discuss, think about and suggest small things we can do to make more of our environment, and might also help to flag up problems in our homes and local neighbourhood.

Tools to assess public spaces

The public assessment tools – Outdoor, Indoor, and City Walking Audit- are designed to support local residents and volunteers to document their experiences of local environment.

With the help of participants, they allow to survey public buildings, parks, and other local places to determine what aspects of these environments are helpful for people living with dementia, and what aspects could be improved.

Facilitating creative activities involving local residents and people living with dementia could be the first step to develop proposals about how to make local physical environments better.

The tools can help communicate with the council, businesses, and organisations, to help some of the participants’ ideas for the local environment to be implemented.

They can be used individually or combined, for example you might want to use the Public Assessment Indoor Tool, but also use the City Walking Audit Tool to record the journey experience to get there.

External resources and links

get_appAre there any existing environment access working groups who can support your aims?
Disability Equality Scotland is a fantastic source of information and can put you in contact with your local access panel.