Dundee and St Andrews researchers develop a communication support system for older people with dementia
As one result of their collaborative work over twelve years, a multidisciplinary team from Dundee and St Andrews Universities has produced CIRCA, a system which takes over the job of prompting and supporting the communication of a person with dementia and restores an ability to have satisfying interactions with relatives, friends and carers. CIRCA gives the person with dementia and their conversation partner touchscreen access to a hypermedia structure holding a large collection of reminiscence content : photos, film clips, and music.
In a session with CIRCA, the person with dementia and a carer or relative enjoy exploring the material together via the touchscreen, and the person with dementia has their long-term memory occasionally prompted by what they are experiencing. In dementia, although working (short-term) memory can be severely compromised, long-term memories can be relatively intact.
Norman Alm, of the development team, said “We had hoped to develop a system that supported an effortless reminiscence session. CIRCA certainly met that goal. However, two of our findings were quite unexpected. With CIRCA we observed people with dementia being able to take more control of the direction of the conversation, because of the touchscreen access to an easily understood structure, and also because of the way we organised the material with multiple ways of moving through it, modelling what happens when we have a natural conversation. We also found that, for people with dementia, a rich collection of carefully selected generic material can prompt personal recollections actually better than personal material.”
Dundee and St Andrews Universities have set up a spinout company called CIRCA Connect to bring CIRCA to the market, and make it available to the people who need it.
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