Supportive technologies for people with dementia: a closer look into an interdisciplinary field

The number of people living with dementia keeps increasing. Despite the growing need, designing technological innovation and meaningful solutions that would lead to independent living and improve overall well-being for this group remains challenging.

Because of the complex characteristics of dementia, getting active involvement and meaningful input from people living with dementia is often difficult. In an effort to gain more insight, a team of Vilans experts took a closer look at the different disciplines and challenges involved in the development of supportive technologies for people with dementia. They analysed the methods and materials used in various AAL-projects and interviewed several other researchers to validate their experience.

Collaboration can be challenging

The team, comprising researchers Sandra Suijkerbuijk, Henk Herman Nap and Vilans Chair Mirella M.N. Minkman, found that the methods and materials that various disciplines are acquainted with, often influence the role that people with dementia can play in the development of technology. They conclude that collaboration can be challenging because many of the partners in such projects come from different backgrounds and cultures, resulting in a lot of time being spent on different viewpoints on how to reach successful outcomes.

“Merely involving people in evaluating ideas, concepts and prototypes does not create the equal partnership that is required for a genuine co-design process. More knowledge should be shared on how designers use the creative capacity of people with dementia and actively involve them in the pre-design and generative phases of technology development.”

The team’s findings are contained in chapter 21 of the publication, “HCI and Design in the Context of Dementia,” by Rens Brankaert and Gail Kenning. This book and our chapter provides information that will enable researchers, designers and practitioners to work in the design for dementia space.