Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences

Care home purchases interactive wall for people with dementia

15 Jan 2015 16:44 | Communication

On 22 December, former Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (AUAS) students of illi Engineering presented their new interactive wall for people with dementia. They now have their first customer: from tomorrow, the wall will be placed in the communal area of Naarderheem care home for a year.

Ruurd Bell, Laurean Serné, Mike Oudshoorn and Ziya Tuzkapan had already developed a personal interactive wall (persoonlijke interactieve muur, PIM) for people with dementia as part of their thesis project in the AUAS Engineering, Design & Innovation programme. People with dementia have a tendency to ‘wander’: they walk around in circles and become restless and agitated, because they don’t know where they are. The wall helps put them at ease, for example by playing familiar music and images.

Recalling memories

The students tested their first version of the wall in Naarderheem, where it became a familiar place for the residents and their family members. There was a woman who reacted gruffly when anyone came into the room, because she thought that the room belonged to her. Student Mike was there when she saw an elephant on the screen, and she suddenly started talking about the past, when she and her husband lived in Africa. “Her family later told us that she had started talking more,” explains Mike. The care staff were sorry to see the wall go, which is why Naarderheem has now purchased the new version.


Ruurd proudly presents the new wall: the lamps light up when someone comes closer. An old-fashioned telephone rings a few times an hour. If you answer it, you hear a friendly voice: “How are you? What a nice day it is today.” This is followed by the soft sounds of an orchestra through the receiver. On the left-hand side of the wall there is a large button. If you press it, a compliment appears on the screen beside it. For example: “Your hair looks lovely.” Ruurd explains: “The only thing that helps against wandering and restlessness is distraction. We hope to bring people with dementia a little relief in this way.”

Ruurd receives a compliment: 'Your shoes look beautiful'


In the previous version, the students had applied pieces of carpet to the wall. This turned out to be the feature that attracted residents most, to feel the fabrics. The former students have now made a seal from soft fabric, which vibrates when you touch it.

Beside the monitor there is an iPad in the wall, which carers or family members can use to play music, such as songs by Dutch artists Willeke Alberti or Ramses Shaffy. Ruurd: “Music is a way of connecting with people with dementia. Many people with dementia no longer speak, yet when you play them songs they remember from the past, they can suddenly sing along with them.”


Remotely operated

The wall is made up of interchangeable blocks. This enables carers to move the wall and put it together however they like. The monitor is connected to the internet, so the former students or carers can operate it remotely, just like the music. The plan is to expand the monitor with facial recognition, so that photos can be tailored to the resident standing in front of the wall. Ruurd: “We are in talks with care homes throughout the Netherlands, and hope that more people with dementia will be able to experience the wall.”


For more information, visit the website of illi Engineering: