Thursday, 21 April 2016

Exploring the potential for technology to support people with memory problems

Workshop participants try out
some off-the-shelf technologies

On Monday, 11th April as part of our research for the AAL-WELL project (see this link), we ran a workshop on technology use among people with memory problems. Around forty people attended, including clinicians, researchers, and people with memory problems who have been involved in research at our Centre. The aim of this event was to find out how people with memory problems incorporated technology into their lives, and how existing technologies might be able to help people manage memory difficulties in the future.

To address these questions, we drew on methods developed by Professor Arlene Astell in her previous research. First, we gave participants a range of technologies to try out and discuss how easy to use and useful they were. The second activity was ‘show and tell’, in which people brought along a technology they love, and one they have abandoned, to explain their decision-making on technology use. Finally, we displayed some cutting edge technologies being developed by our collaborators – including robotics, voice-activated home control systems, and electronic games – to explore the potential of these types of technology for supporting people with memory problems to live well.

A participant interacting with Zeno, which is described
by its makers as “the most lifelike robot in the world”
Talking to our participants gave us some incredibly valuable insights about how and why people use technology to support their day-to-day activities. All our participants had stories about how technology had supported them or improved their lives – from GPS-tracked key fobs to smartphones and bread makers. They also enjoyed trying out the technologies we displayed – The Zeno robot, in particular, generated some lively discussion among the group. On the other hand, participants raised important points about the limitations of technology, the propensity for technology to rapidly become outdated, and the need for technology to support, not replace, human-to-human systems of support. In other words, while technology has tremendous power to enhance our lives, we should be mindful of making sure people are getting the right support – technological or otherwise – to fit into their own lives.

We will be writing up more of our work from this project over the coming months, so watch this space. If you would like to hear more about the AAL-WELL project, please contact Professor Arlene Astell (tel: [0114] 222 0867 / email:

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