Building dementia tech together

27 Sep 2021

This article was originally published on UQ Research News.

New devices, aimed at improving the lives of people living with dementia, are released to the public every year in the hope of making a difference.

From gadgets to software and infrastructure, these inventions are well intended, but rarely make a difference in their lives.

Why? Because very few are created together with those who need them the most – they are not useful or used.

Dr Jacki Liddle and Dr Peter Worthy, from The University of Queensland’s ARC Centre of Excellence for Dynamics of Language (CoEDL), are challenging this.

They have partnered with living experience experts in a multi-disciplinary team to develop new technology that will support the lives of people living with dementia.

Unlike previous design approaches, the team is doing this by working alongside potential users of the technology at every stage in the design, starting with what they need and why.

To coincide with Dementia Week of Action, Dr Liddle and Dr Worthy spoke to Research News about the pioneering Florence Project.

“During home visits, I have seen many iPads and tablets tucked away in a drawer. In a lot of ways, it is like any of us receiving an unwanted gift,” Dr Liddle said.

“Technologies can also be insulting or harmful and frustrating too.

“It is important for people who are involved in developing technology, selling it, or supporting its use, to really listen to what kind of help people are asking for – and think about technology that provides that help.”

Dr Liddle is a research fellow and occupational therapist researching quality of life, participation, and life transitions.

She uses innovative technology, along with qualitative and quantitative research methods to investigate the needs and experiences of people living with neurological conditions.

The Florence Project brings together a living experience expert reference group with experts in computer science, interaction design, speech pathology, psychology, cognitive science and occupational therapy. They work towards the mantra, “make my day go better”.

The project challenges assumptions about what it means to live well with dementia and technology’s role in this.

By working with people who live with dementia, and their care partners, the Florence team aims to reduce stereotypes.

Read more