FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Friday, June 17, 2005

High-Tech Reminiscence Therapy

One consequence of an aging population is the inevitable increase in the number of cases of age-related memory-loss disorders such as dementia and Alzheimer's disease. Reminiscence therapy is aimed at helping afflicted people communicate better with caregivers and loved ones, taking advantage of the fact that long-term memory is more durable than short-term memory; dementia patients are often better able to recall what they were doing 40 years ago than 40 minutes ago. By providing patients with images and sounds that recall the past, therapists can unlock memories and create an avenue to communication.

A UK-developed multimedia touch-screen tool called the Computer Interactive Reminiscence and Conversation Aid (CIRCA) assists in such therapy. The easy-to-use tool gives patients control over the therapy by allowing them to select pictures, video clips and sounds that can jog memories. CIRCA is designed to be used in conjunction with a therapist, but its design team is developing a version that patients can use alone.

Already, CIRCA has registered some impressive successes:

One 56-year-old woman, cared for at home by her husband, watched a clip of Elvis Presley. She took her husband's hand and started swinging it in time to the music.

At one point, her husband Richard said, she moved in closer to him and rubbed noses with him. Richard told the researchers he thought it was her attempt to show him that "she remembered".

Another headstrong 80-year-old, John, tried the system after his nursing home carers found it a struggle to get him to join in group or planned reminiscing sessions. Giving control over to him meant he could choose the clips of images, audio and movies that he wanted, prompting him to talk about what he saw.

Sources: BBC, Emerging Technologies