Page 20 - TalkingCare_Issue3_WebVersion_OACP Winter 2017
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   DanaCare asks...
YOU to be a Navigation Hero!
    It’s still early in 2017, so there’s still time to make a New Year, or perhaps a Spring, resolution. Whether it’s making a much­needed change, from a soulless job into a more heart­warming career or learning something new! Whatever you decide (and there’s no pressure here from me) one thing’s for sure it will probably involve technology.
Certainly, there’s no shortage of gadgets on sale aimed at the older generation. Many are for ‘care in the home’ e.g. safety and well being, helping people to stay in their own homes for longer. The fast­paced growth of technology in the care sector, brings welcome choice to the consumer, cutting edge software applications, mobile phones, tablet devices and assistive technology devices are being introduced to the market almost daily.
Once deemed science fiction, technology is now science fact. Seamlessly integrated into our society, the software and hardware of well known brands is found in homes, workplaces and businesses up and down the country transforming the way we live, work and play.
Buying and then learning how to use these devices can seem like a never­ending learning curve. Some older people can feel ‘out of sync’, intimidated by advances in technology products, which may at first glance seem almost impenetrable, unlike their younger counterparts, who seem to ‘tune in’, check out how it all works and then tell us that they ‘just can’t live without them!’ Research has shown that both older and younger people can find some touch screen technology difficult to use, but most are generally adapting well to the technological changes. However, work is being done to improve touch screens for all users. The research also stated that some older people would ask for assistance from a family member, or friend, to show them how to use apps and navigate more easily. The positive effect is bringing people closer together.
Hardware such as iPhones/iPads or Android phones/tablets, are not only for making calls, texts or for Skyping. They are fully interactive, devices capable of delivering and receiving information ‘on the go’ and ‘around the clock’ anywhere in the world. More recently, applications (apps) that run on these devices are being developed to reflect our daily activities. The health and care sector is already on­board; care providers use software to assist in running their businesses, monitoring care services and timetabling of activities.
Interactive apps are providing researchers and scientists with new routes into previously unharvested data. We can record our everyday experiences via an interactive ‘app’ running on our mobile phone or tablet. Our activity, which may seem worthless to us, can provide a wealth of data, which in the hands of those working to transform lives, could improve the future health and care of someone dear to us.
Interestingly, it is these devices and apps that have been commandeered as the latest tools in the battle to understand more about dementia around the globe. Sea Hero Quest, developed with funding from Alzheimer’s Research UK, is a new game which has been created by scientists at UCL and other universities to help fight dementia by understanding more about how the brain navigates. Loss of navigational skills is one of the first symptoms of dementia. By playing Sea Hero Quest for two minutes, you can generate the same amount of data that scientists would take five hours to collect in similar lab­ based research. Dr Hugo Spiers (Research Department of Experimental Psychology), who helped develop the game, says that mobile technology has enabled scientists to carry out data collection on a mass scale for the first time, and encourages everyone to play to game. In Sea Hero Quest you sail a boat around desert islands and through arctic oceans to save an old Mariner’s lost memories, you have to remember
a sequence of buoys in order to negotiate past them to the next level, or take a meandering path to a destination where you fire a flare back
home. While you play
the game, data on your
sense of direction and
navigational ability is
recorded anonymously
and amalgamated with
that of other players, to
date over two and a half
million people! So far the total
of the time played around the world is equivalent to over seventy years of gameplay, which makes Sea Hero Quest the largest dementia study in history.
By looking at our ‘internal compasses’ and trends in our navigational ability over a lifespan, according to findings presented at a global Neuroscience Conference in 2016, the data harvested from Sea Hero Quest indicates that teenagers are the best at navigating and that sense of direction declines measurably as people get older. As disorientation and getting lost is one of the first symptoms of Alzheimer's Disease, it is thought that this game could be used to create a test for dementia.
We’ve all heard the saying ‘use it or lose it’ and as a loss of navigational skills is key to the onset of dementia, we’d like to encourage people of all ages to play the game. Whether you are a gently paced user of technology or an awesome gamer, if you are looking for a New Year’s resolution, make this yours! By contributing to this research you will make a difference to the long­term quality of life in years to come!
To learn more about Sea Hero Quest visit:
• Download the game from Apple itunes • Download the game from Googleplay
Sea Hero Quest images courtesy of Alzheimer’s Research UK

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