When selecting technologies for use in public spaces, procurers should involve occupational therapists and designers with expertise in dementia, and people living with dementia. Public space technologies should:
- have the most cognitively enabling and inclusive design features (i.e. minimal steps and memory demands),
- be sited in the most supportive physical location (i.e. secure vestibule, busy thoroughfare) and
- identify and account for wider sociocultural preferences (i.e. continued face-to-face services).
Explanation and Examples
Life outside home in most countries increasingly demands the use of Commonplace technologies that most people would agree are widely available in homes and society. e.g. Microwave, television, ATM, ticket machine, elevator/lift, smartphone etc. (ETs i.e. transport ticket and parking machines, ATMs, airline self-check in machines, fuel pumps). However, ETs can present challenges, particularly for people with dementia, and differences in design and location may mean some ETs are easier to use than others.
To investigate variation in the challenge of ETs; the Everyday Technology Use Questionnaire was administered with 315 people with and without dementia (73 in Sweden, 114 in the USA, 128 in England) in a cross-sectional, quantitative study. Modern statistical analysis found 5/16 public space ETs differed in challenge level between countries (specifically: ATM, airline self-check-in, bag drop, automatic ticket gates, fuel pump).
These differences result from variation in design features or siting of technologies. However, they may also be due to differing habits between users in different countries (i.e. necessity and frequency of use, preference for particular modes of transport, concerns about security, embarrassment) or varying progress towards technologised rather than face-to-face services (i.e. towards cashlessness).
Taking account of inter-country differences could lead to selecting the most useable technologies and services. This could improve inclusiveness of public space internationally for older adults with and without dementia.
ThemesAccessibility Cultural context Everyday life Everyday technology Transportation Usability testing
Target groupsDementia-friendly communities Occupational therapy educators & organizations Service providers: retail, transport, finance Technology developers
Type of evidence
Quantitative, cross-sectional study with 315 participants in three countries
Wallcook, S., Malinowsky, C., Nygård, L., Charlesworth, G., Lee, J., Walsh, R., Gaber, S.N., & Kottorp, A. (2020) The perceived challenge of everyday technologies in Sweden, the United States, and England: exploring differential item functioning in the Everyday Technology Use Questionnaire, Scandinavian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 27(8):554-566. doi: 10.1080/11038128.2020.1723685.