Memorology: Multi-sensory TangiBalls Game for Patients with Dementia
6.2 million Americans over 65 years old are living with dementia in 2021, and this number is projected to double to 12.7 million in the next 20 years (Alzheimer Association, 2021). This leads to increased medical costs to the nation, which is estimated to be $355 billion in 2021 as well as loss of productivity for caregivers. Furthermore, the disconnection between family members due to the Covid-19 pandemic exacerbates the situation, as dementia deaths are reported to have increased 16% in the United States (Alzheimer Association, 2021).
Thus Memorology, which aims to help patients with degenerative memory diseases like dementia remember their past (i.e., events, places, people, feelings, milestones). Memorology focuses on the aspect of the patient’s emotional well-being by providing relaxed and fun opportunities to socialize and bond with family and friends. It utilizes multi-sensory tangible user interfaces, TangiBalls, through gamification concepts to engage both patients and their social networks via a shared reminiscence activity (i.e., events, places, people, feelings, milestones).
Memorology is a multiplayer game for dementia patients, caregivers, and loved ones. We chose to engage caregivers as well because dementia patients in a qualitative research study have cited the importance of “meaningful activity and social interaction” for addressing needs raised by dementia “outside of the healthcare system” (NIH Quality of Life Research, 2017). This speaks to the importance of play (addressed via gamification) and social support (addressed via caregiver involvement with the patient). It includes tangible elements which are not only familiar to users but also provide easier controls than the digital-only counterparts.
We chose to focus on the tangible UI instead of digital because sensory stimulation therapy is a recommended treatment for dementia patients. It allows them the ability to use familiar and ingrained senses to trigger remembrance. As such, we aimed to engage with at least a few of the 5 senses like sight and physical touch as part of our project (Salmon Health & Retirement, 2021).