Researchers say eye tracking technology can provide an insight into cognitive impairment in older people and improve the way they communicate their preferences in aged care provision.

The Flinders University researchers 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 recipients to assess quality of care and quality of life, and their eye movements were tracked via goggles with built in tracking technology.

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, said Professor Julie Ratcliffe of Flinders University’s College of Nursing and Health Sciences.

Julie Ratcliffe

“We can see exactly which words in the material the older person’s focused 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 said eye tracking, which could also be done using software built into laptops, was 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.

“We can use this technology to see how people with MCI … 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.”

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, she said.

“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,” Professor Ratcliffe said.

“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.

This story first appeared in Community Care Review.

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1 Comment

  1. This is fantastic news!

    Do Opthamologists currently have the equipment to test for MCI via eye tracking?

    I would be interested as I have two elderly people in my care

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