The Covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns had a huge impact around the world, forcing millions of people into isolation. For those living with dementia and their carers, this was especially difficult as many had relied on in-person community groups to meet up with others. To help those with dementia stay connected at this time, the Community Makers project was established to support groups transitioning online with resources such as technical advice and monthly forums. We take a look at how Community Makers - formed from a collaboration between the UK DRI’s Care Research & Technology (CR&T) centre, the Helix Centre, Alzheimer’s Society and the University of Worcester - has developed and what’s next for the project.
Setting up Community Makers
The UK DRI CR&T centre works closely with the Helix Centre on the Minder programme, developing technology to support people living with dementia and helping them live independently in their homes for longer. A human-centred design process is used for Minder to ensure that the technology created is suitable for use in the homes of people with dementia. This is usually performed through face-to-face meetings and home visits to discuss the technology with the study participants, however, when the pandemic began, this was no longer possible and meetings were forced online.
It soon became apparent that the study participants were benefiting greatly from the social aspect of these meetings and as a result, the idea of a virtual community centre was born. A small team from the CR&T centre, the Helix Centre, the Alzheimer’s Society Innovation Team and the University of Worcester quickly created the Community Makers project, working together and drawing upon their respective expertise. Important aspects included identifying the requirements of people living with dementia and how this evolved over the pandemic; designing the website; connecting and communicating with community groups across the UK; and coordinating the monthly newsletters and meetings with organisers of the community groups.