Being creative with technology
Technology offers the person with dementia the chance to create and express themselves in a range of different ways.
On this page:
Photography and film-making
Photography can be a great activity for people with dementia, and digital technologies provide options. For example, you can use a digital camera, smart phone or tablet to help someone to take photographs of friends and family and put them in a digital photo album. This is an activity everyone can engage in, from taking and editing photos and providing ideas or information for captions, to choosing layouts or colour schemes. Free software that comes with many digital cameras allows you to add a voice-over to a photobook.
Photobooks can be beneficial in the longer term, too. They can create reminders to the person with dementia of who people are and their relationship to them.
You can make short videos using digital cameras or digital video recorders, smart phones and tablets. The technicalities of film-making may not appeal to many people with dementia, but being in the film, helping with research or providing a voice-over are all creative ways of engaging with the process.
Hints and tips for photography and film-making
- Make sure you have the consent of everyone who appears in the photos and films, as well as family and carers.
- Don’t be over-ambitious with films – aim for about five minutes running time. The time limit for YouTube is 10 minutes. Take account of the privacy settings on YouTube as you can set who can view the film.
- Try finding a gifted volunteer or work with a friendly professional film-maker. The Media Trust runs a scheme matching volunteer film-makers (and other types of media professionals) with charities.
- Digital Unite has a useful guide on how to make a photographic slideshow.
- For a guide on film-making with people with dementia, see Innovations in Dementia: Telling our stories – using film to hear the voices of people with dementia.
- For an introduction on the technicalities of making short life story films using interviews to camera, see IRISS.
Arts and crafts
Drawing is a good way to introduce people to computers, helping them to see how touchscreens work or the relationship between a mouse and the screen. It is also a good way to find out if someone needs a special mouse or the accessibility settings on a computer changed. There is usually drawing software such as Microsoft Paint on desktop computers and laptops, and there are lots of drawing apps on touchscreen tablets. There are apps for arts and crafts such as pottery. Search online app stores on Google for arts and crafts related to a person’s interests.
Case study: Paint
A resident called Annie thought computers were ‘not for her’. She has some trouble with her hands and would have found using a mouse too fiddly. But a trackball mouse was found. The Paint programme was accessed (which is sometimes pre-installed on a desktop computer) and Annie was asked to choose a colour. Using the trackball, Annie was helped her to draw an outline, change the colour, and fill in the circle. She was amazed at how quickly she created something on the screen, plus she loved the ‘undo’ button.
Technology can be used to make a range of items that you can print, such as cards, calendars or presentations, as well as practical items for local use such as signs, menus, maps and newsletters. Using a computer has some advantages over traditional craft methods:
- Ideas and images that work can be saved and re-used
- Multiple copies can be made cheaply and easily
- Digital versions can be emailed to distant family and friends.
Many activities with people with dementia involve music. Technology can be used to facilitate this. From staff setting up a selection of tracks on an audio player, to the person with dementia being supported with finding their favourite lyrics online or using an ‘app’ (a computer program) to play a musical instrument such as a piano.
People can be asked about their favourite music and get involved in choosing and selecting song choices or a play list. A compilation can be made and set to ‘shuffle’ on an MP3, tablet or desktop player.
- National Care Forum: Playlist for Life – a project about creating music playlists for people with dementia living in different care settings
Creative activities in action
Creative activities can vary greatly according to the setting and the individual or group involved encourage people to express themselves. They may help people to talk about past experiences or to entertain themselves and others.
Useful kit for creative activities
- A desktop computer, laptop or tablet for screen-based games and for making things
- A games console for games involving physical interaction
- Access to the internet to search for photos or other resources
- A scanner if you want to use existing photos or documents
- A digital camera for taking new photos or short videos
- A printer
Disclaimer: The products mentioned are to provide ideas for consideration only, none are endorsed by SCIE.