Getting out and about: encouraging people with dementia to use assistive technology to help them remain active

This paper will present ATGuide, an exciting new way to help people with dementia and their carers to find the right assistive technology for them.

AT Guide is an addition to the Trent DSDC’s ATdementia website and is being developed in collaboration with York St John University, the Disabled Living Foundation and Innovations in Dementia CIC.

The paper will describe the process through which the pilot theme of getting out and about was developed.

AT Guide uses the simple interface that is used by the Disabled Living Foundation’s AskSara online self-assessment tool. Instead of relying on people navigating through a series of links, the AskSara interface asks the user a number of questions  – usually with simple Yes/No answers – and then presents a report of advice and products that might be appropriate to the individual based on the answers they have supplied.

Initial user testing with people with dementia confirmed that they found answering direct questions a much easier interface to navigate through compared with a standard interface of broad topic headings.

The process of choosing Getting out and about as a pilot theme and what getting out and about means to people with dementia in particular will be discussed.

The literature around ‘walking and wandering’ and other issues around people with dementia remaining active was examined with a new emphasis. The need was to extract patterns around the person, the activity, their environment and the possible solutions. We needed to try to understand some of the issues around getting out and about and the associated assistive technology from the point of view of the person with dementia.

By examining the literature from the point of view of the person with dementia, we were able to establish the types of questions that would help people with dementia to think through how these issues affect them and their own lives.

However, using the literature was not enough. The interface was usable and welcoming to people with dementia. For example we recognised that language can be a barrier to people engaging with assistive technology. We also felt it was important to enable people with dementia to contribute to the text.

We will describe the different ways in which we engaged people with dementia and the different techniques we used to ensure that as many people with dementia as possible were included in the design of the interface.

Nada Savitch, Innovations in Dementia CIC
Stephen Wey, York St John University

Deborah Brooks, Trent DSDC