Horizon CDT Research Highlights

Research Highlights

Exploring the use of Digital Technologies to Provide Immersive Experiences for Older People Living with Dementia. PhD project in partnership with City Arts Nottingham.

  Stanislaw Piasecki (2018 cohort)

This PhD will critically analyse the role immersive technologies could play in improving the well-being of people with dementia (PwD) through meaningful and pleasurable activities. It is important to explore the potential of these technologies to complement and enhance the support provided by carers, families and the health sector in general. We define meaningful and pleasurable activities as “cognitive stimulation and physical activities, as well as technologies to improve social participation, contact, and support” (Meiland et al., 2017, p. 3).

Dementia is an important public health concern in the UK and in many other countries. Currently, the number of PwD worldwide is estimated at around 46 million and expected to rise to 131.5 million by 2050 (Alzheimer’s Disease International, 2015). Moreover, no cure for dementia has been found so far. This makes it even more essential to work towards providing better support and care to PwD and those around them.

Participating in pleasurable and meaningful activities is still definitely possible and highly valued for PwD. However, opportunities to do so can be limited, especially in residential aged care facilities (Moyle, Jones, Dwan, & Petrovich, 2018). Immersive technologies could help in providing more meaningful activities for PwD.

The main objective of this thesis will be to explore how immersive interactive technologies that use our personal data can improve the wellbeing of people with dementia. It will be conducted from a legal, psychological and design perspective.

We will also answer other questions such as: • How do PwD and their carers experience immersive technologies? • What benefit do they provide in their lives and in other people’s lives? • How to implement these technologies in the care system? • How do technologies that use our personal data influence the effectiveness of the immersive experiences provided to PwD? • How is PwD’s personal data used and managed? • Do PwD and carers trust new technologies?

A recent review mentioned various gaps in research on assistive technologies for community-dwelling PwD (Meiland et al., 2017). There are even fewer research studies related to immersive technologies, both for community-dwelling PwD and those who live in care homes. In the context of these research gaps, we will evaluate the development, usability and effectiveness of an immersive musical experience called the “Silent Orchestra”.

The Silent Orchestra has been funded from the NIHR ORCHARD study (Optimising Hearing-Related Communication for Care Home Residents with Dementia) (Crosbie et al., 2019). Both hearing loss and dementia are very common in care home residents and their hearing-related communication needs are often overlooked. The Silent Orchestra responds to the need of developing communication tools for residents with dementia and hearing loss. Its objective is to allow participants to express themselves creatively through the musical immersive technology. The Silent Orchestra will be developed by my industry partner City Arts in cooperation with three professional musicians and artists, and co-created with PwD as well as qualified health professionals.


Alzheimer’s Disease International. (2015). World Alzheimer Report 2015. Retrieved from https://www.alz.co.uk/research/WorldAlzheimerReport2015.pdf Crosbie, B., Ferguson, M., Wong, G., Walker, D.-M., Vanhegan, S., & Dening, T. (2019). Giving permission to care for people with dementia in residential homes: learning from a realistic synthesis of hearing-related communication. BMC Medicine. Meiland, F., Innes, A., Mountain, G., Robinson, L., van der Roest, H., Garcia-Casal, J. A., . . . Franco-Martin, M. (2017). Technologies to Support Community-Dwelling Persons With Dementia: A Position Paper on Issues Regarding Development, Usability, Effectiveness and Cost-Effectiveness, Deployment, and Ethics. JMIR Rehabil Assist Technol, 4(1), e1. doi:10.2196/rehab.6376 Moyle, W., Jones, C., Dwan, T., & Petrovich, T. (2018). Effectiveness of a Virtual Reality Forest on People With Dementia: A Mixed Methods Pilot Study. Gerontologist, 58(3), 478-487. doi:10.1093/geront/gnw270

This author is supported by the Horizon Centre for Doctoral Training at the University of Nottingham (RCUK Grant No. EP/L015463/1).