FROM insoles with GPS tracking to robot nursing home staff, automation is increasingly being harnessed to care for our elderly. Now technology is to be put at the heart of dementia care, according to a new strategy from an Edinburgh-based care provider. The new approach, by housing and care firm Viewpoint, is being launched to coincide with Dementia Awareness Week, which begins tomorrow, and it includes the installation of a "magic table" – a light projector which encourages fun and playfulness for residents – in all four of its Edinburgh care homes.

The health sector is embracing technologies across various areas. Products like the insoles with in-built GPS technology can provide a practical aid for family and carers concerned about loved ones becoming lost, while smartphone and tablet apps offer games and services designed to stimulate memory. More widely, bigger advances in tech abroad have seen more dramatic changes in the delivery of care. In Japan, robots are now used in some nursing homes to provide services such as leading exercise routines for residents, while robot animals are used for therapeutic purposes. The Japanese government hopes that utilising technology may help it better cope with an ageing population and a falling workforce.

Viewpoint said their use of their light-based Tovertafel technology had already had a positive impact on residents. The family of one dementia sufferer said they were “stunned” after he recognised the flowers in a tech-based game as the same ones he’d had at his wedding almost 50 years ago. Another resident was able to use games to reignite a past love of painting.

Lyn Jardine, head of innovation and development, said: “Technology is probably the last thing you think of when you think of care homes but this is proof that digital disruption is everywhere, even in the care sector. When developing our latest dementia strategy, we wanted to focus on what we could do to make our homes more dementia friendly. Tovertafel has been a great success and we have seen a huge difference in many of our residents. They are stimulating interest and encouraging communication, something that can be difficult for those with dementia.”

Viewpoint is also trying to make changes in how its workforce operates by using technology to take care of administrative tasks. Other approaches under consideration in its new dementia care strategy include Kokomo, a technology which monitors residents’ health and can help provide sufficient support to enable them to stay independent for as long as possible.

Jardine added: “Our top priority is to make sure that our residents and tenants living with dementia continue to feel part of their community. By enhancing our administrative care processes with technology, we can create more time for our care staff to have that all important face-to-face interaction and engagement with our residents.”

Dementia Awareness Week, spearheaded by Alzheimer Scotland, takes place between June 4-10. According to the charity, an estimated 90,000 people in Scotland have dementia, and around 3,200 of them are under the age of 65. At its annual conference on Friday, Alzheimer Scotland will consider how to design a digital strategy inclusive of people living with dementia.

Alzheimer Scotland said of Dementia Awareness Week: “This year, the key theme of Dementia Awareness Week is making sure nobody faces dementia alone. We want to help people understand that learning just a little bit more about dementia can make a big difference to people living with dementia.

“We also hope to reach more people than ever to make sure people living with dementia have access to the support and information they need within our localities, situated in the heart of communities throughout Scotland.”

Scotland’s first technology charter for people living with dementia was launched in 2015 in partnership between the Scottish Government, Alzheimer Scotland, NHS Scotland, Scottish Fire and Rescue, Tunstall and Tynetec. Among its six key values were a call for technology to be embedded throughout dementia care planning, although it added that technology should not replace human intervention.