Am as high as a kite! Spent the day at a most stimulating and interesting discussion about dementia and using digital technology to help sufferers. The sheer effort of sustaining concentration over a long period and trying to avoid falling asleep always leaves me feeling high. I have always assumed that this was because of my narcolepsy. When I had returned home I wrapped myself in a blanket and settled in my armchair to take a nap. Awoke with a jolt some thirty minutes later. It was hard to suppress the feelings of panic. “What time is it? Where am I? I shouldn’t be here – I need to be somewhere else. Where? THINK! Think!” I have to force myself to stay seated and calm down. Slowly the world begins to right itself. It is evening. I do not need to be anywhere. Ah! I’m at home and what I actually need to be doing is preparing some supper. After snacking all day on sugary things I need protein and vegetables. While rummaging in the kitchen cupboard I found the gin that my friend left after our meal together. I carefully poured out about half an inch in a glass and topped it up with tonic. Supper preparation went down with a swing as my brain went even higher . . . . One hour or so, a post-prandial nap and a large glass of water later I am coming back down to earth. My brain has stopped racing. Another glass of water and I shall be ready to review the day. So: the Essex County Council “Challenge Dementia” competition: click here.
“We are looking for ambitious and innovative products, technologies and services that enable people living with Dementia to remain connected to the people and places around them and to maintain their identity. Ideas should recognise that everybody is an individual with unique past experiences, interests and abilities. We are particularly interested in solutions that will work now and for future generations, incorporating technology as part of everyday living.” After listening to Ben Mann, the representative from Essex Country Council and Lorraine, from Southend Council, who explained about “Dementia Friends” and gave a most instructive talk about the condition, we began to toss around our ideas. Reflecting on the discussion I am beginning to see two distinct areas for technology to assist dementia sufferers. In the early stages of the dementia, there is a need for technology to assist the person with day-to day activities such as communication. In the later stages, there is a need for technology to monitor the person and keep them safe. After re-reading the requirements of the Challenge it seems to me to focus on the early stages, when the person needs technological assistance with everyday tasks so that they may retain their independence for as long as possible. One idea that emerged was to use a touch-screen to simplify the procedure of Skyping/ face-timing regular contacts. I wondered about a touch-screen device to enable someone to ‘take a trip down on memory lane”, selecting a photo then swiping to view photos of past events with that person. The pictures could be linked to a soundtrack of relevant music or sound bytes. Another idea was chat-bots. I wonder how difficult it would be to programme a device to hold a conversation about a key moment in someone’s long-term memory such as “the coronation of Elizabeth II” “the landing on the moon” or “My wedding day”? The topic of Virtual Reality came up. The drawback with VR is the need to wear a head-set which might be terrifying to someone unfamiliar with such contraptions. Then there were the suggestions about adapting the “Fitbit” idea to provide feedback to the wearer and give voice prompts such as, “time to go to bed”. I am surprised that no-one mentioned “Wii Fit”. One of the vital means of remaining healthy is exercise – although, on reflection, people are gregarious and it would be more beneficial to exercise with other people.
Andy, who led our group, gathered the suggestions for further discussion at Monday’s SoSlug Computer Club meeting. The deadline for entering The Dementia Challenge is next Friday, 13th April but it is not the actual competition that interested me. It is the thrashing out of ideas and conversations generated around the subject that are so stimulating – with the possibilities for pursuing and developing useful technological ideas.