I was very pleased to receive an invitation last year to go along to a Living with Dementia Group in Weston-super-Mare to talk about my research. Last week I visited the Group, which is facilitated by Hayley Pope of Alzheimer's Society South West England.
It was a lovely, informal session and it was great to meet a group of people with such a positive approach to life. I think it is important to reduce the stigma surrounding dementia, and I could see how the group members also felt this way because of their involvement locally and, in some cases, nationally.
In our session, I talked a little bit about Designability and some of the products they are developing, including a prototype task prompter. It was reassuring to hear how the Group thought that the tool, which helps someone complete a set of step-by-step instructions for tasks around the home, could be of use to them. Some of the things they thought could be helpful include:
- meal times;
- making tea or coffee; and
- switching things off at night, including locking up the home.
We then moved on to talk about virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). These were new concepts to most of the members, but I was happy to see that they were interested in the technology. I showed them an AR game I helped to develop last year, which really helped to cement the concept of AR. It's much easier to understand AR after you have seen it!
When talking about AR headsets, we discussed some of the parallels between analogue solutions to remembering where things are, like labelling everything and sticking notes on the walls, and how this could be done in AR. Related to this was the idea of how the headset could help find things.
Generally, there was a very positive attitude towards the things I brought along, although it was mentioned that older people tend to be more reluctant to use technology. On the one hand, most of the members said they would give AR a go if offered the opportunity. On the other hand, one of the members was more than happy with just a telephone, and wasn't as interested in the technology I had to show.
I was glad to experience first-hand this variation of technology acceptance this early on in my project. It refutes the idea that older people are uninterested in new technology, whilst accepting there will be some people who love it and others who don't like it.
The members also made me aware of two other tools they have used to help at home. One member mentioned a 'remote control' that can help someone with dementia make a cup of tea, and another had an app on their phone that they used to help with making a cup of tea, called AutonoMe. I will definitely be looking out for these and how they work.
I am very grateful to the Group for having me along, and was very pleased to bring something new and interesting for the Group to discuss.