Student designs assistive tech for people with dementia

Assistive tech dementia

A university student has developed a new device to support people in the early to mid-stages of dementia so they can be more independent.

Elliot Heffernan, 22, created Activity Aid to help people like his grandmother who experience difficulties in remembering how to carry out day-to-day tasks.

The device allows carers and family members to record vocal instructions on how to make a cup of tea, for instance, enabling people living with dementia to be more self-sufficient.

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Elliot Heffernan with his assistive tech device.

“An issue that people in the early to mid-stages of dementia encounter is they struggle to remember the sequential order of even simple tasks, such as making a cup of tea,” said Heffernan, who’s studying BSc Product Design at Nottingham Trent University (NTU).

 “This is an issue that I have seen personally with a family member so had a good idea of the struggles that people with dementia go through.

“Dementia can completely change people’s lives and leave them feeling very frustrated, so I wanted to do something which would help others in a similar situation.”

Heffernan arrived at the idea for Activity Aid after carrying out interviews with carers and a professional who is researching dementia.

His design enables the user to access the step-by-step guidance they need at the touch of a button.

An LED lights up in front of the task button to remind the user which one they are performing.

The device is also situational, and more than one can be placed in the home, with one in the kitchen with another one in the bedroom, for example.

Heffernan has produced a working prototype, which has gone on public display for NTU’s 2020 virtual product design degree show.

Dr Matthew Watkins, senior lecturer in BSc Product Design, said: “Elliot has taken his personal experience to design something which could help thousands of people around the world who have dementia.

“Consulting with professionals and carers to gain a full understanding the user experience, to deliver a simple product that can extend independence.”

Heffernan added: “I’ve shown my prototype to my grandad and he said that it would have been useful when my grandma was in the early stages of dementia, as she was still trying to complete tasks but couldn’t quite remember how to do them.

“It would have helped her maintain a better degree of independence, something which is really important to all of us.”

Tags : assistive technologydementiatechnology
Sarah Clarke

The author Sarah Clarke