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Digital Wallpaper

Research Priority: Evaluating the implementation of assistive technology
Researcher: Liz Cyarto
Partners: Gwen Bonney, Diversional Therapist and Mina Min, Physiotherapist, Galleon Gardens community; Elisabeth Elder, Dementia Behavioural Support Specialist, Bolton Clarke; James Chiou, Development Manager, Bolton Clarke; Lyndal Hall, Nimrod Weiss, James Ogilvie, ENESS
Study population: Residential Aged Care
Funding support: Bolton Clarke

The use of technology to improve and support dementia care continues to increase in residential aged care settings. This includes providing or supporting residents’ access to computers, tablets and smartphones, active gaming (such as Nintendo Wii), therapeutic robots (such as Paro seal) and virtual reality to name just a few.

In 2017-18, the Memory Support Unit (MSU) at the Galleon Gardens Residential Aged Care (RAC) home in Currumbin Waters, Queensland was refurbished. A feature of the ‘sensory’ lounge was the installation of the interactive ‘digital wallpaper’. This is a series of acrylic light panels, 4m long by 2.7m high, affixed to the wall. Technically, the digital wallpaper is a product called LUMES, created by ENESS a Melbourne-based multimedia design studio. The digital wallpaper currently features nine ‘scenes’:

  • Caterpillars that turn into butterflies and apple trees that drop their apples when touched;
  • A cockatoo on a tree branch that flies away when touched and then returns to sit on the branch;
  • Blue bubbles that pop when touched;
  • Koalas sitting in trees that “drop” leaves when touched;
  • Tropical fish swimming (no interactive effect);
  • Ping pong (two players required)
  • Swans swimming that bob their heads when touched;
  • Solid colour that changes colour in the area touched; and
  • Undulating colours (no interactive effect).

Acrylic light panels (source: ENESS, lumes.net)

Galleon Gardens staff member pointing out the apple trees (caterpillars below turn into butterflies when touched) and the cockatoos fly away when touched

This was the world’s first installation of digital wallpaper in an aged care home. It was anticipated that the interactive nature of the wall would engage residents with their physical environment, promote physical activity, stimulate creativity and conversation and create opportunities for connection with staff, family members and each other. However, an evaluation conducted during the wallpaper’s first year of operation found that this has not occurred.

Interviews were conducted with staff from the MSU and Bolton Clarke’s Dementia Behavioural Support Specialist. Security camera footage was used to observe programs conducted by the Activities staff and informal resident/staff/family member interactions with the digital wallpaper. One assumption was that the light, colour and movement of the wallpaper would attract residents’ attention and then they would interact with it. Staff comments, corroborated by video observation, revealed that, in fact, residents walk past the wall without even glancing at it. Possibly because of the lack of initial co-design with staff and residents, the scenes have only been able to hold peoples’ attention for about one minute. This was despite the attempts by the staff to incorporate the digital wallpaper into their recreational and therapeutic programs.

Currently, Bolton Clarke has re-engaged the ENESS team to design three new scenes for the digital wallpaper, focussing on physical activity, cognitive activity and reminiscence, which also incorporate sound and music. The content is being co-designed with Galleon Gardens’ Diversional Therapist and Physiotherapist and the Dementia Behavioural Support Specialist. Protypes will be tested with residents in the MSU. Once development and feasibility testing has been completed, an evaluation of the impact of the new scenes on the wellbeing of residents will be conducted.