The MagicTABLE project is a new experiment that stands out because of the international cooperation involved. Most technology innovations for older people with dementia who live at home, focus on improving their safety and health. This project investigates whether technology can also contribute to meaningful daily activities.
For MagicTABLE, we collaborate as a project leader with several international organisations, developer Active Cues and healthcare organisation Lyvore. Expert Henk Herman Nap: ‘Because it is an experiment, MagicTABLE is a small European AAL development project. We want to prevent large-scale development of a technology that does not fit the needs of older people. That is why we work in small steps.’
‘By working together on an international scale, we make better use of innovation opportunities. For example, we are working together with the University of Bucharest and a geriatric hospital in Italy. We are still in the conceptual phase, so we are not able to tell anything about the end product yet.’
In conversation with people with dementia
Active Cues is involved in developing the concepts for the end product. Hester van Zuthem, User Centered Designer of Active Cues: ‘The conversations we had with the target group are indispensable. You cannot figure out these things from behind your desk. The fact that we work with people with dementia requires a different approach. For example, for the conversations, we used short, closed questions. We showed them materials so that they were able to understand what we were speaking about. We also spoke with informal carers.’
Technology that moves along with stages of dementia
‘We do not know in advance what the results of a project like this will be. This attitude of openness and freedom is crucial in order to fine tune the process to meet the wishes of the user.’ Even so, there are ideas about the necessary criteria that should be applied with such technology. ‘The technology cannot be rigid. Because then it will not be able to keep up with the reality and potential of the user. People with dementia are on a sliding scale. But if technology moves at the same pace as their capacities, they will not notice it and it will not be so confronting.’
Need for autonomy
Following conversations with people with dementia, Active Cues has now more insight into their needs. ‘The most popular need was the desire to go out. Experience something different than the four walls of your home. The sense of belonging and being among people also contribute to a meaningful day. We also discovered that many people with dementia would like to be in control. It is often the caregiver who makes the choices. That is well-meant, but the fact that you have dementia does not mean that you want everything decided for you.’
MagicTABLE is an AAL project, a joint European financing program that includes 13 countries including Spain, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Norway, Romania, Poland and Slovenia. Together these countries are developing projects to respond in time to demographic developments, with ageing in particular. The aim is to develop and market innovative, ICT-based solutions for older people living at home and their environment.