Unlock & Revive: Involving People Living with Dementia in Online Cultural and Heritage Events

A new report created by ENU researchers illustrates optimal ways to create accessible online cultural and heritage events to benefit people living with dementia and their carers.

The report, entitled Unlock & Revive, is a multi-disciplinary action-research project set up in response to COVID-19 and carried out during a three-month period from April to June 2021.

The highly collaborative project involved seven Edinburgh-based cultural and heritage organisations that each offer weekly online sessions specifically created for people living with dementia and their carers. The aim was to identify the best ways for these events to be organised, to ensure accessible and regular online social-cultural activities that benefit the attendees.

The research found that online group activities that can be attended from the comfort of a home-like environment encourage people living with dementia to participate, allowing them to connect with others within the Dementia community. This practice boosts attendees’ sense of wellbeing; builds their confidence and establishes a newfound appreciation in them for leisure activities and hobbies. And although 100% of the research participants confessed they would prefer to attend Dementia Socials in person, they all expressed their enjoyment of the online socials and see them as a useful alternative.

Unlock & Revive recommends keeping the events under sixty-minutes-long and including short interactive presentations that use simple language and supplemental visuals. Presenters should use multi-sensory triggers to create engaging narratives and allocate plenty of time for participant-led discussions. The number of attendees should be kept low, and the presenters’ aim should be engagement over education. All event facilitators should have up-to-date Dementia Training from a reputable institution, and the socials should be organised in a recurring manner and not as one-offs.

The report identifies Zoom as the ideal platform to deliver online socials, highlighting the importance of using the ‘spotlight’ function and the involvement of admin support to let people in, oversee the chatbox and monitor participants’ wellbeing. Lastly, Unlock & Revive emphasises that a more grassroots approach is taken for engaging the community and advertising the events, as social media promotions have proven to be less effective in reaching the intended audience.

To download the full report and the entire list of recommendations, please click Unlock & Revive Dementia Socials.

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