Best Practice Guidance
Human Interaction with Technology in Dementia


Practical, cognitive & social factors to improve usability of technology for people with dementia

Technologies are increasingly vital in today’s activities in homes and communities. Nevertheless, little attention has been given to the consequences of the increasing complexity and reliance on them, for example, at home, in shops, traffic situations, meaningful activities and health care services. The users’ ability to manage products and services has been largely neglected or taken for granted. People with dementia often do not use the available technology because it does not match their needs and capacities. This section provides recommendations to improve the usability of technology used in daily life, for meaningful activities, in healthcare and in the context of promoting the Social Health of people with dementia.
Social Health Domain 3: Technology to promote social participation

Pet robot design preferences of people with dementia need further investigation


The design of some existing pet robots for people with dementia do not sufficiently consider their preferences. For example, while some pet robots are designed to resemble unfamiliar animals such as a dinosaur or seal, people with dementia seem to prefer more familiarly designed pets, such as domestic animals like cats and dogs. As little research has been done into pet robot design preferences of people with dementia further investigation is needed.

Explanation and Examples

One of the most researched and used pet robots in dementia care is PARO, a robotic baby harp seal. The developer of PARO anticipated that users are likely to be more accepting of PARO, since they are less likely to have experiences and expectations of a seal. However, Bradwell and colleagues found that older adults including people with dementia have expressed a preference for familiar animals such as cats and dogs. A qualitative study uncovered similar findings – Care providers in nursing homes expressed that residents with dementia may prefer and react better to familiar animals. In line with a person-centred approach to care, the use of pet robots should account for the preferences and needs of people with dementia. However, there is a lack of studies that have explicitly investigated such design preferences. More studies are necessary to bridge this gap.

Type of evidence


Scoping review, qualitative content analysis, qualitative study (interviews with care providers)


Koh, W.Q., Toomey, E., Flynn, A. & Casey, D. (2022). Determinants of implementing of pet robots in nursing homes for dementia care. BMC Geriatrics, 22(1), 457, 1-12.

Bradwell, H. L., Edwards, K., Shenton, D., Winnington, R., Thill, S., & Jones, R. B. (2021). User-centered design of companion robot pets involving care home resident-robot interactions and focus groups with residents, staff, and family: Qualitative study. JMIR rehabilitation and assistive technologies, 8(4), e30337.

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