By Pete Middleton
“Necessity is the mother of invention” as the old proverb says.
The last couple of years have really shown us all how useful technology can be in connecting isolated people with the outside world. On-line shopping, teleconferencing and videoconferencing for instance have become commonly used, where before they were rarely if ever used by most people.
Necessity has driven remarkable change and driven astonishing progress in technologies that connect people.
But there are many other ways that technology can enhance our lives, and for those of us who are living with dementia, and for our carers this is especially true.
Technology can connect people, alleviating loneliness. Technology can help us with day-to-day things around the house or provide fun leisure activities. Technology can help us with coping strategies that enable us to retain our independence, self-respect and self confidence
So why do so many people shy away from taking advantage of the host of technological devices and Apps (software applications) that could provide answers for the difficulties we encounter daily and boost our quality of life and wellbeing?
What’s stopping us from using Technology?
Here are some of the main reasons why people do not use technology as much as they might:
- I’m frightened I might break something
- I fear that I might get a virus on my PC/tablet/smartphone
- Hackers might steal my personal information
- Technology is expensive. What if I can’t get on with it?
- I don’t have the knowledge or training to use technology
- I’m worried about the Internet taking away high street jobs
- I’m worried that too much time spent on-line will result in social isolation
This looks like a long list of negatives, but realistically ALL the items on the list can be addressed without too much difficulty, except for the issue of affordability, which should always be foremost in the minds of those who are developing the software and hardware solutions of the future.
Quite simply, education and training are the keys to the successful adoption of technology by the greatest number of people, and it is something that is largely ignored by organisations that encourage us to trust new ways of doing things by using more modern technical answers to the problems we are experiencing.
A message to Developers and Manufacturers
The number of consumers who are living with dementia is HUGE and sadly set to grow larger over time. If you want your product to be embraced and used by this community, then you must understand its requirements.
Many of the products that are designed to help us have insufficient or badly written instructions – It often seems that more time and effort has been spent on the packaging than on the accompanying documentation.
Some products are over-complicated and tricky to use and would benefit from a perusal by the professional eye of an ergonomicist during the development phase.
And ALL of them would benefit from the inclusion of people with lived experience of dementia at the heart of the process.
Many of us who are living with dementia were once engineers, coders, designers, healthcare professionals, logisticians… You name it, and someone in our community can help to polish your product by giving advice from the perspective of a user living with dementia. We’re a free resource. Why wouldn’t you?