People with dementia are largely locked out of digital life. The irony is that digital technologies are very good at delivering ‘person-centred care’, the best-practice mantra in the offline world. It’s not just about preferences, or customising tool bars; software can be adapted for a range of disabilities: for the hearing and visually impaired, for people missing limbs. And age is no barrier; older people use digital technology in numbers and with enthusiasm. So why are people with dementia so poorly served?
Ok, “There’s Apps” I hear you say… Apps are the rage; and like some secret recipe, everyone wants THE list of perfect apps. In my experience, few are designed especially for our target users, as anyone – who has had to wrestle with pop-up advertising, requests for in-game purchases, touch screens that get skewed when you touch them or content that suddenly gets weird – will tell you.
As for accessing digital technology in residential aged care facilities, not rare to connect with wifi seamlessly, and should residents need IT support, responses tend to fall into three categories.
a) aversion: “I’m hopeless with this stuff”
b) coercion: “maybe you could ask your son”
c) desertion: “I’ll come back later”
It is therefore important to gain a deeper understanding of obstacles to digital inclusion and identify the elements that enable people with dementia to use digital technologies.
There will be an opportunity to think more coherently about such issues at a one-day seminar on September the 2nd, 2014, convened by Alzheimer’s Australia (Victoria). Along with some exciting local projects, like Human Rooms, I’ll be presenting my research into virtual worlds for people with dementia, and AVED, the prototype tool I designed to investigate how virtual worlds might be engaging for this user group.
Details for Registration is here Virtual Reality and Dementia Seminar