Technology enhances the psychosocial well-being of people with dementia

LiveNature installation. Credit: Yuan Feng

Yuan Feng’s PhD research focuses on promoting the well-being of a vulnerable population in our society – people with dementia – using interactive technologies. In collaboration with Vitalis Berckelhof, a Dutch home for the elderly with and without dementia located in Eindhoven, Feng gave the clients living there a way to relive the past and get closer to nature outdoors through simulated sensory experiences with rich interaction opportunities.

Technology is critical to providing care and supporting independent living for people with dementia. However, with the majority of innovative solutions focusing on the safety and wellbeing issues of carers, there is a huge gap where technology solutions are needed to directly engage people with dementia, particularly those in more advanced stage of dementia.

In care facilities like Vitalis Berckelhof, people are looking for new ways to promote the psychosocial well-being of clients in order to achieve their goal of the highest quality of care. Inspired by augmented reality for immersive multisensory experiences and social robot development, Feng’s research identifies a way to meaningfully engage people with dementia and effect positive change for this unique group of users.

Merging the digital and physical worlds

In addition to the full immersion provided by virtual reality, Feng explored whether merging the digital and physical worlds could make sense for users with dementia and make solutions and applications easier to benefit them. Therefore, based on earlier efforts, she implemented an interactive installation — Closer to Nature — at Vitalis Berkelhof and defended her Ph.D. research along these lines, including iterative designs, empirical studies and experiments.

The design adopts reminiscence and animal-assisted therapy to benefit a generation of Dutch seniors who grew up on a farm. The installation has a tangible interface of an old-fashioned water pump that pumps actual water into half of the animal feeding trough. By simply interacting with the water pump, the display will play a pre-recorded video of animals coming to drink water and then turning away after a while. The results of Feng’s experimental research show that compared to virtual immersion alone, adding a tangible layer to the interaction helps to capture the user’s attention and enable recall of memories from the youth of people with dementia.

A social robot disguised as a sheep to activate people with dementia

To further enable a richer experience of the Closer to Nature installation, Feng added a social robot to the new redesign called LiveNature. LiveNature has taken a novel approach that combines interaction with a social robot with an augmented reality display to provoke positive emotional responses and enable multimodal interactions. Contact with animals is thought to have therapeutic effects such as mood relief and providing relaxation, pleasure and satisfaction to people with dementia. In this design, human-robot interaction was enhanced with visual and audio feedback from the display. Based on LiveNature, Feng further explored how such a combination as a way of “richer” interaction could affect the subjective user experience – engagement – of people with dementia.

A new way to quantify the subjective experience of people with dementia

Feng’s research tackled the challenge of robustly assessing the engagement of people with dementia using a mixed-methods approach with qualitative studies and quantitative observations. Because self-assessment of subjective experience was often unavailable due to accompanying language and cognitive impairments. Therefore, in collaboration with colleague Giulia Perugia, Feng applied an innovative method, the Ethnographic and Laban-inspired Engagement Coding System, to quantify the subjective experience of engagement through observations of bodily behavior. The results of the LiveNature-based experimental study suggest that providing rich experiences at a sensory level may be one of the factors contributing to the positive emotional experiences of people with dementia.

The design knowledge gained from this PhD research can be used to inform future researchers. And this research will lead to more innovative technological solutions that promote the psychosocial well-being of people with dementia and contribute to living well with the condition after a formal diagnosis.

1 in 5 people who died from COVID-19 in 2020 and 2021 had dementia, new data confirms

More info:
Rich interaction for people with dementia: Designing rich interaction interactive systems to improve engagement for people with dementia living in long-term care facilities. …igning-interactive-s

Provided by Eindhoven University of Technology

Quote: Technology boosts psychosocial well-being of people with dementia (2022, July 11) retrieved July 11, 2022 from .html

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