Designing new musical technologies for older adults' wellbeing

How can technologies assist us to age creatively?

When living with dementia, older adults value non-pharmacological interventions which help them continue doing activities they enjoy, things that hold their interest, as well as tasks that support communication with others and keeping hold of their identity. Participating in music can provide a path to achieving these outcomes, but activities are often limited by traditional tools and devices.

Collaborating with researchers across music, psychology and engineering, this research project investigates how we can harness emerging technologies to boost opportunities for older adults living with dementia and their carers to interact with music, whether it be listening to music, creating playlists, singing, songwriting, or playing a musical instrument.

What does the project involve?

Over the next four years (2021-2025), the team will lead various research activities to:

  • evidence the needs, rewards and barriers for older adults with cognitive impairments and their carers in using musical interfaces

  • develop tools and technologies to facilitate music interaction

  • analyse how these interfaces can be optimised for maximum usage and enjoyment, sense of wellbeing, agency, and social integration.

In 2021, we have recently completed i) a scoping review that draws together recent advances in technologies for the creative arts for people living with dementia (publication under review), ii) a national survey for arts workers and organisations to gather the lessons learned from devliering activites online/remotely for people living with dementia during the COVID-19 pandemic (analysis underway). We are also preparing to release a survey for people living with dementia in late 2021 to find out what their preferences and needs are for interacting with music.

Future work will include design workshopping and collaboration with Bela in order to bring about and test new designs. If you are interested in assisting with this research either as a participant, or through Public and Patient Involvement (PPI), then please get in touch (see: How to get involved).


The Team

This project is led by Dr Jennifer MacRitchie, funded by a UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship at The University of Sheffield, in collaboration with Prof Renee Timmers, Dr Justin Christensen and Dr Georgina Floridou (Music Mind Machine group), Prof Luc de Witte (Centre for Assistive Technology and Connected Healthcare, The University of Sheffield), and Prof Andrew McPherson (Augmented Instruments Lab, Queen Mary University London) with partnership from Bela (Augmented Instruments Ltd)

How to get involved

If you are living with dementia, or care for someone who does, and wish to be involved in informing the research, please get in touch with Jennifer MacRitchie