The development of safer walking technology: a review

Esmé Wood (Specialist Occupational Therapist and Lecturer in Occupational Therapy, Department of Social, Therapeutic and Community Studies, Coventry University, Coventry, UK)
Gillian Ward (Principal Lecturer in Assistive Technology, Health Design and Technology Institute, Coventry University, Coventry, UK)
John Woolham (Senior Research Fellow in Social Care, Department of Social, Therapeutic and Community Studies, Coventry University, Coventry, UK)

Journal of Assistive Technologies

ISSN: 1754-9450

Publication date: 15 June 2015

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to gain a greater understanding of the development of safer walking technology for people with dementia through contemporary literature.

Design/methodology/approach

A two stage systematic approach to searching the literature was adopted. Initially this involved searching the literature to gain a broad overview of the development of safer walking technology and the context in which it has been developed. Then, this literature was examined in detail to look at published evidence surrounding the use of safer walking technology by people with dementia. These articles were quality appraised and a meta ethnographic approach taken to synthesis of the findings.

Findings

There is a small but growing body of literature within this field. Whilst there is only limited evidence to support the use of safer walking technologies for people with dementia, the evidence to date indicates great potential for its use. If provided with the right support and guidance, safer walking technology has the potential to increase freedoms and independence for people with dementia; gaining them improved access to outdoor spaces and environments to support their health and wellbeing. However, if the safer walking technology continues to be associated with only risk management it will not achieve this potential.

Research limitations/implications

The published literature within this field is small and has limited generalisability as much of it was generated in recent years has been by the same small research teams, often reusing data sets. There is also very little research that examines the experience of actually using safer walking technology and even less which explores the views of people with dementia. It is evident that a greater breadth and depth of knowledge is needed within this field to develop a clearer understanding of how this technology is used and perceived by all stakeholders concerned. In particular the literature would benefit from greater consideration of the views and experiences of people with dementia themselves.

Practical implications

For many people with dementia, health and social care professionals can play an important role in ensuring appropriate assessment and support in the decision-making process when using safer walking technology. However, greater support is needed in decision making for all people with dementia, especially those people not currently engaged with specialist services. Therefore greater awareness of the benefits and limitations of this technology is needed by all health and social care professionals as well as the general public.

Originality/value

At the time of conducting this review the author is unaware of any other systematic search of literature or overview of research on the use of safer walking technology and its use by people with dementia. Despite this safer walking technology is growing in popularity, commonly recommended by health and social care practitioners and often marketed and purchased directly by people with dementia and their families. This review offers an insight into the development of the technology and the current evidence base for its use.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

This literature review was conducted as part of ongoing PhD studies undertaken by Esmé Wood at the Coventry University. The co-author’s listed in this paper are members of the PhD supervisory team.

Citation

Wood, E., Ward, G. and Woolham, J. (2015), "The development of safer walking technology: a review", Journal of Assistive Technologies, Vol. 9 No. 2, pp. 100-115. https://doi.org/10.1108/JAT-07-2014-0017

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Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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