Thursday, 22 October 2015

Useful clinical label or medicalisation of aging? How do patients make sense of mild cognitive impairment, and could assistive technology help people live well with the diagnosis?

CATCH researchers Tim Gomersall and Arlene Astell have recently published a review of the literature on mild cognitive impairment (MCI), in a leading gerontology journal. MCI is defined as a transitional or boundary state between “normal” cognitive aging and dementia. In our research project, AAL-WELL (, we are developing an evaluation framework for assistive living technologies for people diagnosed with MCI, so we wanted to understand how living with this label affects people.

Based on our analysis of the existing literature, we suggest that receiving a MCI diagnosis is a ‘double-edged sword’. On the one hand, people are often relieved they have not been diagnosed with dementia, and are glad to have a medical label to add legitimacy to the problems they have been experiencing. However, health services for people who live with MCI are often patchy or non-existent, and the ambiguity surrounding the diagnosis – especially in terms of what counts as “normal aging” – can leave people uncertain and worried about the future. You can read the full article for free here.

There is clearly an unmet need to provide services to support people with MCI to live well, and assistive technologies could have an important role to play in filling the gap. How we evaluate such technologies, though, remains a difficult question – and one which we hope to address with future work. To hear more about the review, or any other part of our work on AAL-WELL, get in touch with Tim at

Written by Tim Gomersall

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