Memory maintenance for people with dementia

Looking after people with dementia is one of the greatest challenges of our future.In the research project “Interactive Memories” (InterMem), UID is looking for ways to use digital media in order to “revive” memories of people with dementia. The aim of this project is to increase the patients’ quality of life and to improve care.

Currently, about 1.4 m people with dementia live in Germany. The aging society will see this number rise to approx. 2.5 m by the year 2060. For people with dementia, it is increasingly difficult to access past knowledge and experiences. Therefore, they often find it hard to embed objects, situations and people into the right context. However, memories and a biographical identity are vital for dementia patients in order to maintain their identities and to ensure social participation and well-being.

Better quality of life thanks to technology-based biographical work and memory maintenance

The approach of biographical work and memory maintenance is to collect biographical information and artifacts of personal memories. Therapists and caregivers can use them to stimulate memories and to activate the patients. Primarily, this is done using analog media such as photos and photo albums. The research project InterMem investigates how such information and artifacts can be gathered, structured and used by means of digital media, Internet-based approaches and innovative forms of interaction such as gesture control.

In addition to personal memories, caregivers can also use objects and materials that remind the patients of important cultural events of their generation (e.g. the moon landing or the Soccer World Cup 1954 in Bern). The patients can explore them in multi-modal experiences and exchange their memories. The digitized biographical work and memory maintenance aims at maiking dementia care in private homes and institutions easier while improving the patients’ quality of life.

Contextual inquiry in nursing homes

In March 2016, we performed a contextual inquiry in the nursing home Sankt Marienhaus in Freiburg and in an other partner nursing home in Hüfingen: Together with our project partners, we visited the assisted-living groups of two homes in teams of two and spent a week watching how the residents interact with other members of the group and with caregivers. Each of the special dementia groups consists of 12 residents. The observers joined the residents at different times of the day in order to watch their daily routines.

UID’s Anja, Ina and Martina visited the Sankt Marienhaus in Freiburg, bringing with them valuable insights for the project:Dementia has very individual effects, and influences the patients’ behavior in very different ways. Depending on the patients’ current condition, they might – or might not – react to a meaningful event of the past. This means that there will be no “one size fits all” solution for the project.


Anja Becker, Ina Schäl, Martina Uhlig (PM)



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