Thursday, 9 June 2016

RemArc, a collaborative project with BBC that helps trigger memories for those with dementia.

Prof Arlene Astell
In collaboration with staff from the School of Psychology at the University of St Andrews and
the School of Science and Engineering and the School of Art and Design at Dundee University the BBC has launched its online RemArc system for people with dementia and their carers. RemArc makes use of the BBC’s extensive archive of material from the past, to stimulate and support conversations between people with dementia and their carers.

Professor Arlene Astell, project lead at the University of St. Andrews and now at the Centre of Assistive Technologies and Connected Healthcare at the University of Sheffield, is a member of the team that has developed this idea.  She explained:

Our population is aging. People in the UK over 60 will increase by 50% by 2030.  Of critical concern is the growing numbers of people with dementia. This age-related condition involves gradual but debilitating loss of cognitive abilities, particularly working memory. One in 10 people over 65 have dementia, rising to nearly half of people over 85. Research efforts are on-going, but there is currently no way to halt or reverse dementia.”

“Many people with dementia find it hard to hold a conversation as they easily forget the topic of conversation. This is due to the working memory problem which leads to people repeating themselves and not being able to keep in mind what has just been said. However, their memories from the past are relatively well preserved and we have shown that prompting these memories with photographs, music or short video clips can enable them to relate these recollections as a source of conversation.
“As a result of our collaborative work over twelve years, our multidisciplinary team of psychologists, designers, and software engineers have created an easy to use, shared activity that both the individual with dementia and their relative or caregiver can explore together.

“Our research has shown that it is not necessary to have personal content - in fact, against expectations, generic content presented randomly works better.  Personal material can lead to the same information being told over and over and also there is the possibility of getting some of the information wrong, for instance forgetting a name or date, which is upsetting. Whereas, generic material from the past has the effect of stimulating new recollections and stories, producing genuinely satisfying conversations for individuals with dementia, their family and caregivers.”

“We are very pleased to have worked with the BBC to help produce this system, and are particularly happy that the BBC are making the software behind it open-source, which means that archives and museums around the world could provide a similar service using their own material.”

RemArc can be accessed at :

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