Dementia and Design



Research Study Area: Embodiment — Simulation and Immersion 


Research Question: How can augmented reality be used as a memory aid to people living with dementia? 

Dementia is a disorder that requires more empathy from architects and designers when creating solutions for problems centered around people with disabilities. Inadequate solutions can lead to an increase in disorientation and anxiety from patients who often suffer from cognitive impairments. Helen Rochford-Brennan is a dementia patient who warns of the risk that isolation brings to suffers: “the general public do not see us… we want to be part of society.” These problems and challenges that patients face on an everyday basis should in turn be highlighted to designers in order to adapt projects to the needs of all users.

As a result, this research project aims to explore how the use of augmented or mixed reality technology could be used to improve the quality of life for people living with dementia. Considerations to the needs of dementia sufferers combined with technological innovation could offer a greater sense of independence, comfort and integration.

Example User: Tom — a 72 year old Alzheimer's patient who requires a memory aid for his everyday tasks as well as lighting and navigational support. He is experiencing some difficulty with wayfinding and navigating through previously known environments. Additionally, he is noticing gaps in his memory and organising himself for the day ahead. Tom and his son have programmed the necessary tasks, needs and alerts into the Asto mobile app. These include inputting his appointments for the upcoming month, appliance alerts through the environment scanner feature and adjusting the lighting to his needs. These features which are customisable to Tom's needs allow for him to reestablish his daily routine and sense of independence. It decreases the need for a support worker or carer, but still considers Tom's safety and health precautions through GPS notifications and quick communication to emergency services or family members. 

Above is the research and background information conducted leading up to the design outcomes. A video simulation of the program's features for an AR device can also be found to illustrate how the program could assist the user.