Researchers say eye tracking technology can provide an insight into cognitive impairment in older people and help improve the way they communicate their preferences in aged care provision.
The researchers, from Flinders University, investigated information processing in people with mild cognitive impairment in an exploratory study using patients attending memory clinics in Adelaide between July 2017 and June 2018.
They were asked to read documents based on official forms given to aged care patients to assess quality of care and quality of life, and their eye movements were tracked via goggles with built in tracking technology.
Professor Julie Ratcliffe of Flinders University’s College of Nursing and Health Sciences says tracking eye movements can indicate whether people are taking ‘cognitive shortcuts’ by skipping over or ignoring parts of the text that they might find difficult.
“We can see exactly which words in the material the older person’s focussed on, and how long they focus on particular words,” she told Community Care Review.
“If they haven’t focused or have skipped words, it’s going to give us more information about the fact that they may not have completely understood what we asked them to do.”
Designing more inclusive material
Professor Ratcliffe says eye tracking, which can also be done using software built into laptops, is relatively new technology. It is being used in stroke rehabilitation and understanding how older drivers view the road, but this is the first time it’s been used in the context of MCI.
She says the research shows the technology has the potential to be used to design better and more inclusive quality of life assessments, which in turn will help improve aged care policy and practice.
“We can use this technology to see how people with MCI and mild dementia look at information and process it, and that should help us design more visually appealing ways for them to assess their own quality of life,” she says.
“It’s going to find us new ways of making this information translatable, so that we can get the older person’s own view of their quality of life as opposed to a proxy assessor like a family member or aged care worker.”
An estimated 20 per cent of people aged 65 and over in developed countries are living with MCI and this is expected to rise by 2050.