Best Practice Guidance
Human Interaction with Technology in Dementia

themes: Mild cognitive impairment (MCI)

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.
Technology in everyday life

Consider different needs


During the development or use of technological devices, the individual needs of the person with cognitive impairments (e.g. dementia or MCI) and carer should be considered. This includes not only everyday technology, but also surveillance technology (ST) and technology used during cognitive training sessions. Increased awareness and offered assistance is recommended.

Explanation and Examples

People with dementia tend to face more and other difficulties than people with MCI when using relevant everyday technologies such as cash machines, calling or texting with a cell phone or using a DVD player, and thus need more assistance in technology use. This may also be the case with ST and technology used for cognitive training.

For example, ST are often presented as a neutral technology, which enables carers to minimise risk. However, the views of users have not been sought by ST developers, which limits the usefulness of ST and suggests the need for the empowerment of user groups. Therefore, a study of audience reception was undertaken through focus groups, online discussions (Netherlands) and PPI (UK). Hereby people with dementia could speak for themselves, which has allowed their needs to be compared with carers. There was no clear recognition that such needs differed between people with dementia and carers, and it has not previously been recognized that this leads to a mismatch between a user’s situation and the product design and how this plays out in the acceptance and use of ST. Although, carers and people with dementia have not yet reached an agreement on the privacy debate and on how the media should portray dementia, it is clear that carers often tamper with ST to make up for a lack in current designs. The results suggest that ST are being resold or rebranded by providers to use for dementia, whilst users may experience physical and cognitive barriers to using such technologies for safety reasons.

Regarding technology for cognitive training: As older people have little experience with technological devices, and so may experience problems, professionals involved in cognitive training should monitor training sessions from the outset. The professional must observe and ensure the ability of the older person to understand the instructions given through the technological device, so that the person can really benefit from the cognitive training by computer. For example, in sessions with GRADIOR, a cognitive rehabilitation program, there is always a professional in charge who helps older people to understand the exercises they may experience difficulty with.

Read more >
Technology for meaningful activities

Assessing the Ability to Use Everyday Technologies by self-perceived reports as well as observations


To understand the ability of the elderly with cognitive impairments to use everyday technology observe the interaction but also ask about their views.

Explanation and examples

Via an observation (guided by the META), the person-technology interaction can be described in detail, e.g. does the person press buttons/the screen with an adequate force or are steps performed in a logical order. This can help to determine which elements of a specific technology are causing problems and might be particularly useful for designing intervention and the development of technology. Through a self-perceived report (S-ETUQ), the individual can reflect on a wider range of technologies and the impact of technology use to perform well in (in relation to) everyday life can be depicted. For example, if someone has problems using the ticket machine for public transport or the ATM, this might impact participating in society; if the individual has problems with using the dishwasher or vacuum cleaner, this might impact the hygiene and well-being at home.

Read more >
Social Health Domain 3: Technology to promote social participation

Tablet-based interventions should be considered as one effective option to sup-port social participation of community-dwelling people with mild cognitive im-pairment or mild dementia, but the choice to provide such an intervention should be based on user characteristics and needs


The choice for a tablet-based intervention should be based on an assessment of the characteristics of the tablet-users and their specific needs and potential to benefit from the intervention. Care providers should consider prioritizing people with MCI and younger people with MCI/mild dementia to receive tablet-based interventions.

Explanation and Examples:

Evidence from the FindMyApps project showed that on average, tablet interventions could be effective to promote participation in social and other meaningful activities. However, the results also showed that tablets seem to be particularly effective for people with a diagnosis of MCI compared to those with a diagnosis of mild dementia. Regardless of the diagnosis, the results also suggest that younger people with MCI/mild dementia also benefit more from tablet-based interventions than older people. The choice for a tablet-based intervention should therefore be based on an assessment of the tablet-user characteristics, in addition to their needs and potential to benefit from it.

Read more >

Robotic platform features and applications need to be tailored to the needs and preferences of end-users before implementing them in community-based dementia care


To successfully integrate social robotic platforms in community-based dementia care, such as Meeting Centres for people with dementia and carers and daycare centres, their features and applications need to be tailored to the needs and preferences of the end-users, the dynamics of group interactions, and the Meeting Centres’ activity policies and settings.

Explanation and Examples:

Research through focus groups and interviews with stakeholders on potential facilitators and barriers in the implementation of the social robot MINI indicated that for a successful implementation of social robots in Meeting Centres and daycare centres for people with dementia, it is expected to be crucial for social robot designers and developers to consider the following recommendations to guide the design of the robotic platform:

  • Evaluate the needs and preferences of the participants of Meeting Centre. Qualitative research with end-users and care professionals is essential before and during the robot development phase. This will ensure the acceptance and usefulness of the robot in such contexts.
  • Given the preference for group activities in Meeting Centres over individual activities, it is crucial to integrate the robot into a group setting so that it can interact with multiple users. For example, a multi-player game could allow two or more individuals to interact with a social robot at the same time.
  • Avoid designing games and quiz-like activities for use on social robots to avoid, in line with the activity policy of Meeting Centres, confronting persons with dementia with their shortcomings in activities that have high cognitive and memory function demands. Instead, fun, enjoyable, and relaxing applications and games would be most appealing and beneficial.
Read more >

Implementation of technology in dementia care: facilitators & barriers

Successful implementation of technology in dementia care depends not merely on its effectiveness but also on other facilitating or impeding factors related to e.g. the personal living environment (privacy, autonomy and obtrusiveness); the outside world (stigma and human contact); design (personalisability, affordability and safety), and ethics on these subjects.  This section provides recommendations on the implementation of technology in everyday life, for meaningful activities, healthcare technology and technology promoting Social Health.