There are 850,000 people with dementia in the UK, with numbers set to rise to over 1 million by 2025. Although dementia is usually associated with the elderly, there are over 40,000 people under the age of 65 who have dementia in the UK.
Dementia is something which affects a lot of us, from those who have experienced it first-hand, to the family members and friends of those who are on their journey.
With awareness surrounding dementia steadily increasing, innovative technology has begun to transform the way in which we provide care. Although traditionally these technologies have focused on systems such as telecare and alarms, technology has now evolved, shifting its focus to the importance of wellbeing and a sense of play, encouraging cognitive, physical and social activity.
From virtual reality headsets which enable users to relive key memorable events such as England’s World Cup win, to new dementia-friendly community hubs being opened across the country, technology is shifting and is providing new opportunities for people to experience happiness.
Research conducted by Hester Le Riche has shown that stimulating environments all contribute to positive engagement for those living with dementia. This could range from playing games and interacting with others, to music and interactive lights. Technology is now a way in which we can create ‘moments of happiness’ for those living with dementia, as well as their family, friends and those who care for them, all the while boosting morale, health and a general sense of wellbeing.
Le Riche’s research, in collaboration with dementia care homes, exposed the importance of games for those with dementia, establishing a narrative illustrating how everyone can experience happiness and joy no matter their age or situation.
One example of how technology is helping those with dementia is through the free virtual reality app, The Wayback. The app aims to spark memories and trigger conversation among those with dementia, immersing the user in the sights and sounds of the past. The idea is based on the knowledge that triggering happy memories from the past can help those with dementia by bringing comfort and reinforcing identity, and therefore improving a person’s happiness.
Similarly, the Tovertafel, which translates to ‘Magic Table’ in Dutch, is a series of award winning games for people with mid-to-late stage dementia. The Tovertafel aims to stimulate physical, social and cognitive activity through interactive light games which are projected onto a table. It stimulates a level of activity which is rarely seen in people living with dementia, sparking ‘moments of happiness’ not only for those using it, but also for those who witness it being played.
Going forward, the development of innovative technology can help to play an important role in dementia care, not only for those on their journey, but for carers, families and friends too.
Recent research has proved how vital it is to provide stimulating environments, and the importance of creating ‘moments of happiness’ for all – no matter their age, background or situation, and technology provides a pioneering way in which this can be done.