Dementia Journal of Australia, April 2014 (in press)

By | March 7, 2014

The Dementia Journal of Australia is helping us collect  data for our ‘Identity and Interests’ survey, which is running live, on-line, until March 31 2014.

Please do our survey if you are a person experiencing dementia or are a person supporting them. If you have had family experience of dementia, past or present, please also consider doing the survey:  http://opinio.online.swin.edu.au/s?s=14609

Many thanks to Keely Cambourne from the DJA for writing the article that explains our survey in greater detail.

A team of researchers from Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, is developing a virtual environment for people with dementia and is calling out to people in the dementia community to undertake an on-line questionnaire that will help to determine the software program’s content and interactions.

The questionnaire, which will be open until March 31s t 2014, will help the team to ensure that the content is relevant to users. “Think of it as academically-focussed crowd-sourcing”, says principal researcher and doctoral student, Mandy Salomon. “In order that the activities be meaningful, we must to learn about into people’s own experiences, so the survey gives the dementia community an opportunity to have their say.

Known as the ‘Identity and Interests’ survey, responders are asked to collaborate as much as is possible with the person in their care. ‘For validation purposes we need boundaries around the data, so we ask the carer to be the responder, but encourage them to collaborate with the person in their care if this is possible.

“We are looking to get a sense of individual likes, dislikes and, as the digital world is world of possibilities, what the person wishes for or misses; we can create objects or interactions that may not be feasible in the real world,” Ms Salomon said. “We want to get a sense of common themes; as an example, if 50 per cent of responders say the person with dementia misses someone they grew up with, that suggests that relationships are important in this world. If family pets feature prominently, we can work on introducing animals into the software.” she said.

The main project is called Applying Virtual Environments for Dementia Care, known as AVED, and features a prototype 3-D environment that people can play on a touch screen tablet, such as an iPad. Ms Salomon finds that tablet-based devices are suited to a wide range of people as input is through touch and there is no need for a keyboard. The app will also enable users to upload film, photography, images and books, further personalising it.

“AVED is not a cure, nor are we saying it is going to improve cognition. It’s a tool that aims to promote engagement not just with digital content, but also between people. Potentially, it’s a conduit for conversation and understanding.”

Trials will be undertaken with the prototype in June this year. 

Ms Salomon’s team is aiming for 500 responses by connecting with community networks globally. Alzheimer’s Australia Victoria is a partner in AVED and has endorsed the survey.

“Not many questionnaires link dementia with open-ended possibilities. We want people’s imaginations to be let loose for this questionnaire.

Click the following to access the survey, it takes around 10  minutes to complete and is open until March 31st 2014:

http://opinio.online.swin.edu.au/s?s=14609

 

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