Employing ICT tools to assist elderly users with cognitive impairment

The project on INdependent LIving support Functions for the Elderly (IN LIFE) aims at turning existing research efforts into practical applications, in particular for senior citizens. Flexible ICT solutions could assist elderly users with cognitive impairment in organising, carrying out and completing everyday tasks and constitute essential factors for continuing to be and feel independent. The IN LIFE consortium partners therefore employ such personalised, multi-faceted ICT solutions and services addressing diverse daily activities (eating, physical activity, commuting, mental stimulation, communication, social interaction, etc.) to users with cognitive impairment living in their own home or in sheltered homes, as well as to their formal and informal carers.

To learn how this works in practice, we have asked Katja Laakso from the Vastra Gotalands Lans Landsting (VGR-DART) & Linkopings Universitet – Centre For Dementia Research (LIU/CEDER) about the Swedish experience in this project and how it translates into daily life.

Q: What is the role of Vastra Gotalands Lans Landsting and the Linkopings Universitet’s Centre For Dementia Research in the IN LIFE project?

Katja: The Swedish partners have focused on questions related to stimulating communication and socialisation in elderly persons with different stages of cognitive impairment. Our role has been to participate in and lead the development of several web services that are designed to support communication and socialisation, as well as to study interaction strategies while using the services. The three different web services (CIRCA, CIRCUS and MMS) have been tested with more than 400 participants, both individuals with cognitive impairment as well as their informal and formal caregivers.

Q: What problem in Sweden would you like to see solved with the outcomes of the IN LIFE project?

Katja: For instance, the challenge a care taker could have in finding a conversation topic with an elderly person with dementia, that the web services could be easily accessed to provide conversational support and help creating a nice moment. The web service with personalized content could also be used by the person with dementia to convey information about themselves, for instance to a new care taker.

Q: How would you describe the progress so far? What are your key takeaways?

Katja: Our experience from the trials is that the web services are easy to use both for individuals with cognitive impairments and for care takers. One of the key success factors during the development has been the close collaboration with technical developers and constant input from the end users. It has been imperative that the web services are easy to use for all users, and that the content is relevant and appropriate.

Q: How was the concrete user feedback?

Katja: Individuals with dementia as well as care takers have been overall very positive. They have enjoyed using the services and even wanted to continue using them after the end of the project.

Q: What would you need as next step to be able to implement the outcomes of the project in real life?

Katja: Although the web services have been developed, they need to be continually updated. There also needs to be easy access for instance through the application centre. These questions need to be solved to ensure that the services can be provided in the long run.

More information about Vastra Gotalands Lans Landsting (VGR-DART): http://www.dart-gbg.org

More information about Linkopings Universitet – Centre For Dementia Research (LIU/CEDER): https://liu.se/en/organisation/liu/isv/asc

More information about the InLife project: http://www.inlife-project.eu