Centre for Applied Dementia Research, University of Bradford – Written evidence (INQ0038)


Technology and people with dementia


We all use technology every day, for enjoyment and for household tasks. These ‘everyday’ technologies include home equipment such as TVs, microwaves and vacuums, as well as Wifi connected devices like laptops, smartphones and tablets. Use of the Internet to obtain services such as shopping and banking is rising and equipment to link home based equipment with the Internet (such as the Amazon Echo) are emerging. However research has shown that everyday digital technologies tend not to be designed with the older person in mind and are not always intuitive, meaning that users have to learn how to use each device individually. Maximising the potential of technology to support older people including those with dementia is recognised but poorly understood.


Research has also shown that the technology requirements of people with dementia are perceived by industry and by services to be distinct and specialist and not the business of mainstream manufacturers and the benefits of dementia-specific technology solutions are often directed at carers rather than people with the diagnosis. Nevertheless it is evident that people with dementia are using everyday technologies for a range of purposes e.g. providing reminders and assistance with getting out and about (https://whichmeamitoday.wordpress.com). Research has already found that this can be effective because phones and tablet devices can be personalised to meet individual needs. Also use of social media by people with dementia is growing (http://www.dasninternational.org; https://twitter.com/youngdementiauk).


In Bradford we held a meeting with people with dementia and supporters where some people described creative use of technology to enhance daily life. However another important discussion point was on-going difficulties with using home equipment such as microwaves and remote controls.


We propose that immediate work is required to create;

  1. A ‘roadmap’ of everyday technology use by people with dementia including what is required for successful use by people at different stages of dementia and in different living situations. This roadmap should be made available to all those with a responsibility or interest such as policy, manufacturers and dementia practitioners.
  2. Design ideas for discussion with technology manufacturers.
  3. A film made with people with dementia to illustrate the issues and possibilities.


Additionally as the use of ubiquitous computing advances, work is also required to address key ethical issues such as privacy, autonomy, security, human dignity, social justice, unequal balance of power, discrimination, surveillance, benefits and unintended consequences. We therefore suggest that attention needs to be given to the following;

  1. Machine learning and the potential of using harvested data for diagnosis and classification of dementia and for monitoring of disease progression.
  2. The implications of harvesting big data through digitally connected devices; either actively or passively used by people with dementia such as the issues for digital identity and privacy and security.
  3. The ethical implications of using different forms of digital technology intended for people at different stages of the dementia trajectory; from early through to moderate to later stage disease.
  4. How ubiquitous devices in the home might enhance autonomy but also what might be the unintended consequences.


19 September 2019