A team of researchers has launched a digital learning platform to guide learners through an immersive experience to inspire alternative ways of thinking on dementia.
The digital learning resource, called Dementia in New Light: A Digital Learning Experience, invites users to explore ideas around dementia through a cinematic display of audio and visuals.
Created by Christine Jonas-Simpson (York University), Pia Kontos (KITE Research Institute, Toronto Rehabilitation Institute – University Health Network; University of Toronto), Sherry Dupuis (University of Waterloo), Julia Gray (University of Toronto Scarborough), Alisa Grigorovich (Brock University), Romeo Colobong (KITE Research Institute, Toronto Rehabilitation Institute – University Health Network), the website seeks to destigmatize dementia by creating emotional connections to new ideas and perspectives.
The team was recently recognized with the 2022 Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Institute of Aging Betty Havens Prize for Knowledge Mobilization in Aging, in part due to this project. Dementia in New Light also received the 2022 University Health Network Local Impact Award for Technology & Innovation.
Learners will explore an immersive experience that will help them to see the complexity of identities and relationships, the harms imposed by stigmas, the possibilities for fostering a society that values people living with dementia, and more.
“People living with dementia are often misunderstood and stigmatized,” says Jonas-Simpson, a York University Faculty of Health, School of Nursing professor. “Stigma creates social isolation, exclusion, and inequality, which diminishes the health, well-being and quality of life of persons and families living with dementia. Our digital learning experience challenges stigma, while engaging learners in different ways of thinking about dementia – inspiring a world where everyone can thrive.”
The new website uses scenes from Cracked: New Light on Dementia, a film that presents qualitative research on persons living with dementia, family care partners and health-care practitioners and was co-created by a team including Jonas-Simpson and York University Professor Gail Mitchell.
York University master of nursing student Miao-Ying Huang is impressed with the online tool.
“I am really appreciating the highlighted themes – relationships, stigma, identity, current culture of dementia care, and possibilities. These are all very important concepts to explore if we are to re-imagine dementia.”
Huang says what stands out is how “the fractals and interconnectivity of themes are so beautifully represented.”
The development of the digital learning experience began in February 2019 – with funding from the Waugh Family Foundation – and was completed in July 2022.
“Our process was inclusive of the perspectives, goals, interests of people living with dementia, family carers, practitioners, educators and youth. They were collaborators in the development of the curriculum and design,” said Kontos.
Jonas-Simpson hopes educators in York’s School of Nursing, as well those in other disciplines, will use the digital learning experience as a key resource and teaching tool when engaging students in thinking about dementia through a critical and relational lens.
Learn more by watching this trailer for the website.