Does familiarity affect the enjoyment of touchscreen games for people with dementia?

Arlene J. Astell, Phil Joddrell*, Hanny Groenewoud, Jacomine de Lange, Marleen Goumans, Anneloes Cordia, Yvonne Schikhof

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction Previous research has indicated that people living with dementia are able to use touchscreen technology, which presents an opportunity to deliver meaningful and engaging activities for people to pass the time independently. The challenge is to identify suitable applications from the thousands that are currently available, and familiarity, where an app is a digital version of an existing real world game, may be one solution. Objectives To evaluate the concept of familiarity in gameplay with people living with dementia by comparing a known game with a novel game and measuring whether users are able to play these games independently and whether they enjoy doing so. Methods Thirty older adults living with dementia were recruited from local care services. Each participant was assigned to one of two groups. Group 1 played a familiar game (Solitaire) and Group 2 played a novel game (Bubble Xplode). Each participant played the same game on three separate occasions within one week. Number of gameplay attempts, whether a checkpoint was reached and how much time to reach the checkpoint were measured. A brief post-session interview was conducted to assess the participants’ enjoyment. Results Ninety percent of participants attempted gameplay independently with 17% of participants in the familiar group reaching the checkpoint compared with 93% playing the novel game. Regardless of which game was played or whether the checkpoint was reached, 88% of all participants reported enjoyment of the gaming sessions. Discussion People living with dementia can play touchscreen games independently, but familiarity does not ensure successful gameplay. Enjoyment appears to be independent of progression through a game. The potential of novel and unfamiliar games as meaningful activities that people with dementia can engage with independently should be further explored.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e1-e8
JournalInternational Journal of Medical Informatics
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2016
Externally publishedYes

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