The benefits of dementia-friendly TV on quality of life
Dementia is an umbrella term for a range of related symptoms that affect the brain. These often include memory loss, reduced cognitive ability, impaired communication and language skills, and changes in mood and behaviour.
In the UK it is estimated that around 920,000 people are living with dementia, and the vast majority of these are aged over 65. As we have an ageing population, this number is likely to rise.
Mental health and wellbeing can be severely affected for People Living with Dementia (PLWD). This can obviously impact the quality of life, not only for people with dementia but also those around them, such as family members and carers and the Covid 19 crisis has exacerbated these issues.
Prior to the pandemic, the bleak reality was that many PLWD in care homes and at home experienced poor mental health because they were isolated without mental stimulation. Up to 50% of PLWD experience depression which is double the 25% prevalence amongst older people more widely. Research has shown that two significant factors in this are social isolation and loneliness and the lack of mental stimulation. The majority of care home residents with dementia spend most of their time engaged in no activity at all, with unstructured time accounting for two-thirds of their day. The COVID-19 crisis has made these problems even worse; 79% care homes have reported a decline in the health and wellbeing of PLWD because of isolation.
TV specially created and adapted for people living with dementia
Television could be one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to address this issue; people aged 65+ watch over six hours of broadcast TV every day on average in the UK. However, mainstream television is not dementia-friendly. 850,000 PLWD (and rising) will be unable to watch normal TV because of cognitive impairment when their condition progresses; memory problems, a decrease in concentration and impaired hearing mean that PLWD struggle with fast plots, complex information and loud music. Put simply, the lack of dementia-friendly television is a barrier to improving the mental health of PLWD.
My Life TV, the dementia-friendly channel is addressing these challenges and enabling PLWD to watch the shows they want to watch when they want to watch them. It is a web-based video on-demand TV platform and being based on the internet means it is easily accessible to PLWD at home or in any care setting via a computer or smart device, and can be cast to a TV.
All of the dementia-friendly content is “feel good” with a broad range of shows available, from interactive programmes like quizzes and armchair yoga, to passive entertainment like nature programmes and archive news. The content is curated for the cognitive needs of the audience and the interactive content created by our in-house production team.
Mental health boost
My Life TV ran a Feasibility Pilot with very positive results, involving a number of participants in care homes and people also living in their own homes. 94% caregivers said My Life TV can improve the mental health of PLWD, and care staff reported it can keep residents “occupied”, “improve communication”, “increase compliance with staff” and “support in improving behaviour that challenges
So, with that endorsement, My Life TV launched recently with its ground-breaking new streaming service, specifically designed for people living with dementia. Having already formed some great partnerships with the likes of the British Film Institute, Getty Images, British Pathe, Fremantle Media, and Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, the on-demand platform offers lots of excellent dementia-friendly content.
There is a mixture of “lean in” and “lean back” programmes, suitable for all stages of people’s dementia journeys.
So far, the results of dementia-friendly TV have been incredibly positive and promising, and the hope is that it will become an even bigger success and reach across the UK to improve the lives of people living with dementia.
 Zubenko, G.S., Zubenko, W.N., McPherson, S., et al. (2003) ‘A collaborative study of the emergence and clinical features of the major depressive syndrome of Alzheimer’s disease’, American Journal of Psychiatry, 160(5), p.857–66. Available at: doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.160.5.857 (Accessed: 21 January 2021)
 (2021) Mental health statistics: older people Available at: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/statistics/mental-health-statistics-older-people (Accessed: 5 February 2021)
 Daly, S., Allen, J. (2016) Inequalities in mental health, cognitive impairment and dementia among older people [Online] Available at: http://www.instituteofhealthequity.org/resources-reports/inequalities-in-mental-health-cognitive-impairment-and-dementia-among-older-people/inequalities-in-mental-health-cognitive-impairement-and-dementia-among-older-people.pdf (Accessed: 10 March 2021)
 Lucero, M., Pearson, R., Hutchinson, S., Leger-Krall, S., Rinalducci, E. (2001) ‘Products for Alzheimer’s self-stimulatory wanderers’, American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias 16(1), p.43–50. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1177/153331750101600104 (Accessed 10 March 2021)
(2020) Thousands of people with dementia dying or deteriorating – not just from coronavirus as isolation takes its toll [Online]. Available at: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/news/2020-06-05/thousands-people-dementia-dying-or-deteriorating-not-just-coronavirus-isolation (Accessed: 21 January 2021)
 (2020) OFCOM Media Nations 2020: Interactive Report [Online]. Available at: https://www.ofcom.org.uk/research-and-data/tv-radio-and-on-demand/media-nations-reports/media-nations-2020/interactive-report (Accessed: 21 January 2021)
 Funnell, L., Garriock, I., Shirley, B. and Williamson, T., (2019) ‘Dementia-friendly design of television news broadcasts’ Journal of Enabling Technologies, 13(3), p.137-149. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1108/JET-02-2018-0009 (Accessed: 21 January 2021)