Supporting Dementia Care: Prototyping Digital Befriending Kits


As part of the Digital Inclusion Innovation Programme, LOTI is looking to
develop digital approaches to support people affected by dementia and their carers and to address social isolation in the context of the pandemic. Led by the Helix Centre at Imperial College London, we will co-design and test prototypes with the London boroughs, voluntary and community sector (VCS) organisations, carers and people with dementia.

What we’ve done so far

In September we held a discovery workshop with borough, VCS and health colleagues to understand their priorities in relation to dementia support and to explore challenges and opportunities. You can read the full summary notes from this workshop here. Lack of devices and connectivity, user confidence and reaching people who do not have support were recognised as key challenges in dementia care. The session also helped us identify the most favoured approaches to address these challenges, which were:

  • Innovative approaches to supplying and managing devices
  • Testing and evaluating purpose-made accessible devices.
  • Supporting community groups to hold virtual / hybrid sessions

We turned these suggestions into concepts which were presented to borough colleagues at a second workshop for feedback.

There was equal interest in each of the concepts, which provided us with an opportunity to bring the ideas together. We could evaluate 3 to 4 managed device solutions with people affected by dementia; create a person-centred guide for introducing technology – incorporating usability, accessibility and purpose and; develop templates for hybrid group activities

We then sought further feedback from boroughs via a show and tell, and several boroughs including Westminster City Council, Lewisham, Newham, Hammersmith and Fulham and Ealing registered their interest in getting involved. We’ll be working closely with them and dementia support community groups in their respective boroughs to test the concepts.

A Digital Befriending Kit

Following discussions to align our ideas with the needs and opportunities identified by borough and VCS partners, we have elected to produce and test a Digital Befriending Kit.

A Digital Befriending Kit supports new befriending relationships through simple to access technology that allows face-to-face support to be augmented by digital connection. This in turn can build digital confidence, and hopefully enable people affected by dementia or their carers to participate in online group activities. We will create prototypes to see how we can remove the barriers to a new user accessing Zoom meetings, including access to the internet and device.  

Digital befrienders could be family, trusted friends or neighbours, or volunteers supported by charities or community organisations. Our testers will be people with mild to moderate dementia and their carers who have little or no experience of internet technology in the home.

What happens next?

  • February: we will test the Digital Befriending Kit – including 3 different tablet devices – with community groups and people with dementia in 3-5 boroughs. Based on feedback and user experience we’ll decide which tablet device better meets the needs of the participants.
  • March: we will run a pilot and test our proposed intervention with 15+ people living with dementia (in homes and community settings).
  • April: Using our findings, we will develop a person-centred protocol for selecting and introducing technology for people affected by dementia.

All project outputs, including key insights and lessons learned, will be captured in a toolkit that LOTI will share with boroughs.

For project updates, please see this page.

Sophie Nelson
3 February 2022 ·
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