With close to 1 million Canadians having dementia, and more to follow, there is an urgent need for new methods and technologies that can improve the lives of people with dementia, and those that care for them. Continuous 1-1 care is not possible, and thus many with people with dementia have unmet needs which they can't articulate and they act out with responsive behaviours (e.g., hitting or screaming). This has led to the widespread use of anti-psychotic drugs in long term care, which are expensive and which reduce overall activity and have side effects. We are working with a company to develop ambient activities that will be engaging and that are expected to reduce the frequency and magnitude of responsive behaviours (http://www.ambientactivity.com). In our lab, we are focusing on the Centivizer, a reward-based system for managing behaviour. We are developing two sub-systems that together comprise “The Centivizer”. The first sub-system is a computer-controlled hardware device that dispenses nickels (tokens). We chose nickels as a primary reinforcer because money tends to retain perceived value late into the progression of dementia. Nickels are a convenient size and are manufactured to precise tolerances. The second sub-system is a combination of sensors and software that controls dispensing of nickels (which can also be used as tokens) based on performance of desired behaviours. The software also allows caregivers to track behaviour over time and to set individual goals based on targeted behaviours. We are looking for undergraduate students who can help design and prototype new activities for the Centivizer. Current activities include an arm strengthening lever, a painting game, a whack-a-mole game (which may also have implications for cognitive assessment), and a memory game.
We would expect the student(s) to design and develop a proof of concept for a new activity that could in principle be integrated into the Centivizer system. Depending on the skills and interests of the students(s) the focus of the project could either be a deep dive into a particular activity and a development of a more advanced prototype, or it could be an exploration of a particular class of interactive activities, with more emphasis on literature search, requirements analysis, and the generation of alternative design concepts.
2nd, 3rd, or 4th year in any branch of engineering. People who like to work with their hands and build things are particularly welcome. We could also accommodate more abstract people who like to brainstorm, and project manager types who like to keep things on track.
Professor, Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering
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