Improving pedestrian navigation for older adults with mild cognitive impairments through landmarks


Nowadays, ageing is perceived as a global epidemic due to the rapid growth of the older population throughout the world. It is predicted that in 2050, for the first time in recorded history, the older population is set to surpass the young population. For this reason, an increase of incidence of age-related physical and mental impairments can been identified. Dementia, in particular, is a well-known syndrome which senior adults are prone to develop. This condition is connected to a progressive loss of cognitive ability, leading to a number of difficulties such as mobility problems and time and spatial disorientation. A wandering behaviour, consisting in an aimless and disoriented walk, may present itself as the most distressing symptom as it sometimes leads to accidents, injuries or even death. Such issues result in decreased navigation skills - the type of skills a person needs to find their way
to a location, for example, an increased dependency on the patient’s caregiver. This dissertation approaches these mobility problems and is dedicated to investigating how two distinct navigation concepts (landmark-based and turn-by-turn) affect the mobility and sense of safety of senior adults and individuals with mild dementia.This goal was pursued by developing a prototype of a pedestrian-oriented navigation application, to be used in mobile devices by the previously mentioned users.

This solution uses a landmark-based approach, introducing nearby landmarks in the generated instructions whenever considered relevant. As an alternative, the prototype also allows for the alternative turn-by-turn paradigm, currently the most common navigation method used. The prototype was used as a tool for an empirical study: 12 participants varying between 63 and 80 years of age were selected and divided into two groups to perform field experiments. The subjects were asked to use one of the two implemented navigation methods to reach an undisclosed destination. The collected data revealed that a landmark-based approach presents a relevant increase in older adult’s mobility, orientation and sense of security.


Author: Diogo Castro

Type: MSc thesis

Partner: Faculdade de Engenharia da Universidade do Porto

Year: 2013