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Mar 22, 2016

Interactive memories for people with dementia

Looking after people with dementia is one of the greatest challenges of our future. In the research project "Interactive Memories" (InterMem), UID is currently investigating how to "revive" memories of people with dementia using digital media in order to increase the quality of life of the patients and to improve care.

Currently, about 1.4m people with dementia live in Germany. The aging society will see this number rise to approx. 2.5m by the year 2060. For people with dementia, it is increasingly difficult to access past knowledge and experiences. Therefore, they often find it hard to embed objects, situations and people into the right context. However, memories and a biographical identity are vital for dementia patients in order to maintain their identities and to ensure social participation and well-being.

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Better quality of life thanks to technology

The approach of biographical work and memory maintenance is to collect biographical information and artifacts of personal memories. Therapists and caregivers can use them to stimulate memories and to activate the patients. Primarily, this is done using analog media such as photos and photo albums. The research project InterMem investigates how such information and artifacts can be gathered, structured and used by means of digital media, Internet-based approaches and innovative forms of interaction such as gesture control.

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In addition to personal memories, caregivers can also use objects and materials that remind the patients of important cultural events of their generation (e.g. the moon landing or the Soccer World Cup 1954 in Bern). The patients can explore them in multi-modal experiences and exchange their memories. The digitized biographical work and memory

maintenance would make dementia care in private homes and institutions easier while improving the patients' quality of life.

Our expertise

As a first step, the project members gather information about where and how biographical work and memory maintenances are currently used. In this context, we want to find out how people suffering from dementia interact with each other, with family members and with caregivers. Moreover, our aim is to find ways to use technology to support biographical work and memory maintenance in order to improve the well-being of people with dementia.

Then, we develop detailed concepts and innovative user interfaces and bring them to life using prototypes. In order to ensure a high level of acceptance, we include residents of nursing homes and their family members in all phases of the project and test the concepts with people suffering from dementia.

The project started in June 2015 and will run for three years. It is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research. In addition to UID, various universities and colleges, other medium-sized companies, information centers and nursing institutions take part in the project.