Professor Assumpta Ryan
Professor of Ageing and Health, Ulster University
App freely available at www.theinspiredapp.com
People living with dementia can see their quality of life and relationships improve through reminiscing about important personal events from the past.
Reminiscence can have huge value in enhancing the wellbeing of people living with dementia. Reflecting on and sharing life events can improve their quality of life and relationships.
Assumpta Ryan, Professor of Ageing and Health at Ulster University, says: “When people are first diagnosed with dementia, often all they think about is what they may lose – the ability to work, drive, or remember people and things that are important to them.
“Their short-term memory may be impacted but they are often able to remember events that happened in the past. This opens up opportunities for conversations and relationships to be sustained and new relationships to be developed.”
Trigger needed for memories
Opening up these memories, however, often requires a trigger. Technology is helping achieve that with a reminiscence app developed by Ulster University in partnership with Dementia NI and Scaffold Digital. The app called Inspired (Individual Special Reminiscences in Dementia) builds on research looking at the impact of a personalised approach to reminiscence.
The use of photographs, music or video clips to start conversations about meaningful life events form the basis of the app, which was trialled on 30 people living with dementia and their family carers.
“We looked at how close people felt to one another and measured the quality of their relationship and their emotional wellbeing,” says Professor Ryan.
“We found that the relationship between people living with dementia and their carers improved while using the app.
Recollecting life events
The idea of the app is to encourage people to think of important life events, such as a family celebration, and upload photographs and music from that event. In addition, there is the novel option to add text or voice notes to enhance the memory.
“Tapping into those memories through photographs or music can promote conversations and have real and meaningful benefits for people living with dementia and for their carers,” says Professor Ryan.
Every aspect of the free app – usable on Apple and Android mobile phones and devices was designed in partnership with the Alzheimer’s Society and more recently with Dementia NI, a charity in Northern Ireland whose members live with a diagnosis of dementia.
“We are grateful to the Northern Ireland Health and Social Care Board, the Atlantic Philanthropies and the Public Health Agency Research and Development Division for funding our research.”