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BSG Scotland news
BSG Scotland held its eighth members’ event on 6 November 2009 at the Hamilton Campus, University of the West of Scotland. As usual this was an informal half day event for BSG members and guests whom we hope to recruit to BSG. The participants were from the University of the West of Scotland; University of Edinburgh; University of Stirling (Stirling and Inverness Campuses); RBS Centre for the Older Person’s Agenda (COPA) Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh; and Glasgow Caledonian University, including two visitors from Malaysia. The event began with a buffet lunch and networking session, then the afternoon presentations were chaired by BSG Scotland organising group member Dr. Pauline Banks from University of the West of Scotland, Hamilton Campus. 

Dr Maria Wolters, Research Fellow, School of Informatics, University of Edinburgh, spoke on:Computer-generated speech: is it suitable for older people? Maria explained why computer voices are used, for example to enable people who have lost their voice to talk or to provide messages for people receiving home care. She focused on the MATCH project (mobilising advanced technologies for use at home). If a system is put in place at home early, it can evolve with people’s needs as they grow older or develop dementia.

Computer voices can personalise messages, such as ‘Dorothy, it’s time to take your morning pills’. New voices, words or accents can be added. Maria considered that designing technologies for older people meant that younger people would also benefit. Older people were good at spotting problems with technology. She described an experiment testing how well people can understand computer voices. Familiar information was recalled well, regardless of the voice used, but medication names were less well recalled.

Suggestions on how to adapt systems were made, such as to use familiar words, pause before important information and make sure important information is articulated clearly. Asked which kind of voice to use, people preferred a newsreader, female voice, Joanna Lumley or a soft Scottish accent. Maria’s recommendations for practice were that good message design is key; messages should be revised regularly; the system should pronounce all words correctly; and high quality voices should be used. Future research will be on applications, different wording and different circumstances for computer generated speech technologies.

Barbara Sharp, University of the West of Scotland, spoke on her current PhD research: Subjective experiences of stress in dementia. Barbara has worked in practice development for Alzheimer Scotland for 19 years. Her study aims are to enhance understanding of the effect of stress in dementia by exploring the perspectives and experience of people with dementia and those most involved in their support; and to inform uncertainties about the significance of stress in dementia to the person’s sense of wellbeing and functioning ability by converging the perspectives of the individual experience and the observable responses.

Her methods include focus groups of people with dementia drawn from existing networks, and individual interviews with family and support workers. Ethical issues were considered and the issue of consent was revisited frequently. However, Barbara stressed that people want to be heard: ‘We want to hear more people with dementia speaking for themselves’ (Scottish Dementia Working Group). The study uses interpretive phenomenological analysis to explore how people assign meanings to make sense of their experience and their subjective world.

Emerging themes include ‘a whole new set of rules’, the changes experienced that people find stressful as they move from having held responsible jobs to fear about dementia. ‘I was frightened of being frightened and frightened of not being frightened, terrified all the time and no-one to share it with’. ‘Not being told what’s eating away at you is worse than not knowing’. The analysis explored similarities and differences in experiences and strategies for coping.

During the tea break, participants visited the Hamilton DOMUS room, an interactive teaching room, where students learn about design features with positive or negative effects on people with dementia. Margaret Brown and Michael Brennan presented the features and use of the DOMUS room.

After tea Dr Jackie Gulland, University of Stirling, spoke on: Moaning or fighting; understanding complaints about social care services. Jackie observed that most people do not like the idea of complaining because it seems like moaning. Complaints and appeals have traditionally been considered very separate. Jackie suggested that we need to get rid of this distinction and move towards appropriate dispute resolution. Most users of social care services are older people. There is no formal appeal procedure in social care, people can only complain.

Jackie’s research in two Scottish local authorities included interviews with 36 people who had made complaints about community care services; four focus groups with people who had not made complaints; and interviews with complaints officers and social work managers.

Complaints were seen as negative; people were embarrassed or worried about being seen as a trouble maker. Some people complained as ‘good citizens’, complaining on behalf of service users. Others were  ‘fighters’, for example, two women in their 70s who had cared for children for 40 years, were now disabled themselves and concerned about their future. They stressed the importance of working with others in support groups, but also pointed out the costs involved and that energy was needed for fighting.  Jackie concluded that people have a variety of motivations in complaining. Future research will look at how people justify disputes with public bodies as ‘appropriate’; the relationship between individual and collective action in citizens’ disputes with public bodies; and the implications for policies on dispute resolution.   

Participants found all the topics interesting and stimulating and a lively discussion was held after each talk. At the end of the seminar some members continued the discussion for at least half an hour, further evidence of the networking value of the event. In 2010 there will be a further BSG Scotland members’ event in the Autumn and the next one day conference will be held on 14 June 2010 at the University of Stirling

Computer voices can personalise messages, such as ‘Dorothy, it’s time to take your morning pills’. New voices, words or accents can be added. Maria considered that designing technologies for older people meant that younger people would also benefit. Older people were good at spotting problems with technology. She described an experiment testing how well people can understand computer voices. Familiar information was recalled well, regardless of the voice used, but medication names were less well recalled.

Suggestions on how to adapt systems were made, such as to use familiar words, pause before important information and make sure important information is articulated clearly. Asked which kind of voice to use, people preferred a newsreader, female voice, Joanna Lumley or a soft Scottish accent. Maria’s recommendations for practice were that good message design is key; messages should be revised regularly; the system should pronounce all words correctly; and high quality voices should be used. Future research will be on applications, different wording and different circumstances for computer generated speech technologies.

Barbara Sharp, University of the West of Scotland, spoke on her current PhD research: Subjective experiences of stress in dementia. Barbara has worked in practice development for Alzheimer Scotland for 19 years. Her study aims are to enhance understanding of the effect of stress in dementia by exploring the perspectives and experience of people with dementia and those most involved in their support; and to inform uncertainties about the significance of stress in dementia to the person’s sense of wellbeing and functioning ability by converging the perspectives of the individual experience and the observable responses.

Her methods include focus groups of people with dementia drawn from existing networks, and individual interviews with family and support workers. Ethical issues were considered and the issue of consent was revisited frequently. However, Barbara stressed that people want to be heard: ‘We want to hear more people with dementia speaking for themselves’ (Scottish Dementia Working Group). The study uses interpretive phenomenological analysis to explore how people assign meanings to make sense of their experience and their subjective world.

Emerging themes include ‘a whole new set of rules’, the changes experienced that people find stressful as they move from having held responsible jobs to fear about dementia. ‘I was frightened of being frightened and frightened of not being frightened, terrified all the time and no-one to share it with’. ‘Not being told what’s eating away at you is worse than not knowing’. The analysis explored similarities and differences in experiences and strategies for coping.

During the tea break, participants visited the Hamilton DOMUS room, an interactive teaching room, where students learn about design features with positive or negative effects on people with dementia. Margaret Brown and Michael Brennan presented the features and use of the DOMUS room.

After tea Dr Jackie Gulland, University of Stirling, spoke on: Moaning or fighting; understanding complaints about social care services. Jackie observed that most people do not like the idea of complaining because it seems like moaning. Complaints and appeals have traditionally been considered very separate. Jackie suggested that we need to get rid of this distinction and move towards appropriate dispute resolution. Most users of social care services are older people. There is no formal appeal procedure in social care, people can only complain.

Jackie’s research in two Scottish local authorities included interviews with 36 people who had made complaints about community care services; four focus groups with people who had not made complaints; and interviews with complaints officers and social work managers.

Complaints were seen as negative; people were embarrassed or worried about being seen as a trouble maker. Some people complained as ‘good citizens’, complaining on behalf of service users. Others were  ‘fighters’, for example, two women in their 70s who had cared for children for 40 years, were now disabled themselves and concerned about their future. They stressed the importance of working with others in support groups, but also pointed out the costs involved and that energy was needed for fighting.  Jackie concluded that people have a variety of motivations in complaining. Future research will look at how people justify disputes with public bodies as ‘appropriate’; the relationship between individual and collective action in citizens’ disputes with public bodies; and the implications for policies on dispute resolution.   

Participants found all the topics interesting and stimulating and a lively discussion was held after each talk. At the end of the seminar some members continued the discussion for at least half an hour, further evidence of the networking value of the event. In 2010 there will be a further BSG Scotland members’ event in the Autumn and the next one day conference will be held on 14 June 2010 at the University of Stirling.  


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