Engineering and dementia: Intelligent Assistive Technologies

Dementia currently affects approximately 800,000 people in the UK alone, a figure which is set to double by 2040 as our population ages and with it, a three-fold increase in healthcare costs [1].

As we see changes in demographics; particularly increasing numbers of elderly citizens, we are presented with opportunities from new technologies that could assist individuals suffering with dementia.

In this report the Institution of Mechanical Engineers explores the possibilities of using Intelligent Assistive Technologies (IAT’s) as a practical and cost effective means of providing care and supporting dementia suffers, by promoting both safety and wellbeing.

The introduction of new IATs should be overhauled to improve both the robustness of research and speed of clinical testing. A specific Dementia Technology Advisory Body should be commissioned, to define and oversee the specification, development and introduction of ethically sound and effective technology by 2019.  It is proposed that this body should be part of the UK Dementia Research Institute and include all dementia stakeholders, and should work with the Medicines & Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to develop an appropriate regulatory framework.[13]

The following activities should be carried out as actions for the new Dementia Technology Advisory Body:

  • Promote investment in healthcare infrastructure systems to ensure compatibility with IATs, ensuring both social benefits and cost savings. 
  • Ensure that designers and engineers involve all stakeholders in the development of appropriate devices, including patients, carers, providers (hospitals, care homes and communities), payers and regulators, as recommended in our product design diagrams.
  • Investigate and clarify the ethical dimensions of these devices and ensure that these issues are addressed at the early stages of the product development process, when dealing with this vulnerable group within our society.



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