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

Consider the use of digital generic photos when designing psychosocial interventions that aim to improve social interaction, mood, and quality of life


People designing psychosocial interventions for people with dementia should be aware that viewing generic, rather than personal photographs, can also be a meaningful activity for the person with dementia. Moreover, viewing these photos digitally was found to be either similar to or better than viewing conventional printed photos.

Explanation and Examples

There is evidence that using generic photos, versus personal family photos, in psychosocial interventions for people living with dementia can be more effective in promoting social interaction and eliciting stories with emotional and personal significance. Generic photos may feel less threatening compared to using personal photos in conversation with the person with dementia, the conversation that arises becomes more flexible and less demanding of remembering specific people or events. This can lead to better social interaction, mood, and eventually, better quality of life for the person with dementia.

Generic photographs can be more accessible and easier to acquire, lessening the time needed to, for example, ask for and collect family photographs from relatives (if these are still available). It has the potential to be cost-effective as well (compared to other art-based activities like museum visits), and has the potential to transcend societal or cultural differences.

These benefits may be even more pronounced, when generic photos are used in a digitalized format, as previous research showed that viewing digitalized photos is similar to or better (due to the pleasurable experience of using virtual reality technology; Tominari et al., 2021; Xu & Wang et al., 2020) than viewing conventional printed photos.

Type of evidence

Josephine Tan (DISTINCT ESR 14)

Systematic literature review


Tan, J.R.O., Boersma, P., Ettema, T.P., Planting, C.H.M., Clark, S., Gobbens, R., & Dröes, R.M. (2022). The effects of psychosocial interventions using generic photos on social interaction, mood, and quality of life of persons with dementia: A systematic review. Manuscript submitted for publication.

Tominari, M., Uozumi, R., Becker, C., & Kinoshita, A. (2021). Reminiscence therapy using virtual reality technology affects cognitive function and subjective well-being in older adults with dementia. Cogent Psychology, 8(1), 1968991.