Led by Professor Sonja Pedell and our team, the Swinburne Living Lab partnered with Dementia Australia and Lifeview Residential Care to develop A Better Visit App, a free well-being App available on iPad and Android. 

The app features a suite of two-player games designed to help people with dementia and their visitors to enjoy more positive social interactions together.  

Importantly, the App games were developed in a co-design process and guided by people living with dementia. The product is tailored to their interests and capabilities, reflecting the importance of giving end users a strong voice during development – no matter their stage of dementia.

One of the interactive games on the app consists of a co-colouring activity.

Living with dementia: the need for meaningful interaction

Society and research view dementia mostly as a terminal disease, and few approaches address quality of life or enable those with dementia to actively participate in life. The Future Self and Design Living Lab and partners undertook this project to create a new way for people with dementia to continue engaging in meaningful activities with their visitors.  

We recruited eighteen residents living with dementia and their main visitors (partners, children and carers) from three separate residential care centres. Over a 1.5 yearlong co-design process, we worked with these parties to develop A Better Visit App. 

Our initial research included three phases: 

  1. understanding the needs of both residents and visitors during a visit (exploring interests) 
  2. systematic co-development and investigation of interactions 
  3. iterative evaluations of the activities.  

Many of the participants had no previous technology experience and a range of conditions including loss of touch and tactile sensitivity, restricted vision, aphasia, and shortened attention spans.  

Incorporating unique and engaging features into A Better Visit App 

Our team needed to create a wide range of interaction solutions to accommodate these challenges, like multiple and accidental palm touches, registering button presses on touch-offs, removing edge zones and supporting interactions with music.  

Building off these needs, we developed a suite of two-player games including a picture guessing game and a dance hall version of tic-tac-toe. Skill games included a gyroscopic tilt marble maze, bowling, fishing and art and music activities where participants traced pulsing colour lines to music, cleaning windows to reveal high definition photos or co-colour black and white animated images. 

All activities in the App have unique interaction properties that don’t punish “unplanned” interaction and touches but reward any interaction with the screen through felt impact. Hence, the games emphasise content creation and positive feedback through familiar activities, sounds and visuals to stimulate memories and spark social interaction. 

Other popular games, such as lawn bowls, are available on the app.
  • "We’re delighted with the positive impact this is having to enhance visits between families and their loved ones living with dementia." 

    Maree McCabe , CEO of Dementia Australia

The outcome: a better experience for those with dementia and their loved ones 

Our evaluation has shown that the ‘A Better Visit App’ leads to a better experience for all. It delivers an enjoyable and social visitation that increases mutual engagement and interaction between residents, their visits and staff alike. The games also provide new social opportunities with volunteers or others not yet known to the older adults. 

Dementia Australia CEO Ms Maree McCabe sees the applications as an important step towards minimising social isolation among those living with dementia.  

“By observing and listening to people living with dementia, the Swinburne research team were able to tailor elements like adjustable speeds, include classic songs to prompt toe-tapping and singalongs, and design clear buttons and simple instructions.” 

More information is available on the Dementia Australia website.

Project team 

Start screen featuring the logo of A Better Visit app.

Project publications

Murphy, A, Favilla, S, Pedell, S, Beh, J, Petrovich,T 2020: Designing Novel and Engaging Interactions with and for Residents Living with Dementia and their Visitors [PDF 1.5MB]

Pedell, S,Favilla, S, Murphy, A, Beh, J, Petrovich, T 2020: Promoting Personhood for People with Dementia Through Shared Social Touchscreen Interactions. Springer International Publishing

Favilla, S, Pedell, S, Beh, J, Murphy, A, Lafferty, A, Petrovich, T 2018: Designing a better visit: touch-screen apps for older people living with dementia and their loved ones. Sheffield Hallam University

See more projects from Future Self Living Lab

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We always welcome new partners. If you are interested in transforming ideas into commercially competitive outcomes, need the support of our research or have any other queries, contact us on +61 3 9214 6072 or email cdiadmin@swinburne.edu.au.

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