Mobility assistance for people with dementia



For the assurance of and for the motivation for more and healthier mobility for persons who are affected of demential diseases, new and mainly unconventional ways have to be investigated by methods of modern ICT. Previous technical approaches are either not usable for people with demential disease due to the complexity of the operation or they are limited to pure tracking or surveillance functionalities which do not allow freedoms and autonomous actions to the person with dementia. WAY-KEY investigates new and considerably simplified interface and product designs adapted to the target group. 

Brief Description

In Austria, approximately 1.2 percent of the population suffer from dementia which corresponds to a total amount of about 100,000 persons. The prevalence increases significantly with age so that a sharp rise in the number of affected persons can be expected in the future due to demographic ageing. 

The preservation of and the motivation for mobility have at least delaying effects on the progress of demential diseases for several reasons. The lack of movement is that risk factor which underlies most of the preventable Alzheimer's dementia cases in the USA and Europe. The Austrian dementia report mentions as risk factor for the development of demential diseases: "... less than 20 minutes fast movement three or more days a week or less than 30 minutes moderate movement five or more days a week ...". 

As mobility with dementia implicates also risks, like getting lost and collapses, present technical solutions primarily aim at the supervision and restriction or the prevention of the mobility of people with demential disease from the outside. Thereby, they support care personnel or relatives in the first place and persons with dementia become the passive part of the functional chain. Where efforts have been made to keep elderly people mobile theirselves through technological solutions, smartphones and smartwatches have been the preferred choice which handling people with dementia overstrains, though. 

Therefore, WAY-KEY tries an opposite approach: to open new paths and to support mobility. This means to accompany persons with mild and moderate dementia, for whom independent mobility is possible and a legitimate need, in the required extent, to guide them to the destination but especially safely back to their home again and to care for the proper degree of physical activity at the right time. Relatives or care personnel are only involved upon request. The guiding principles are privacy protection, human dignity, Ethics by Design, usability and non-discrimination. 

In order to avoid common problems with acceptance and usage, the mobility assistant WAY-KEY will be connected with a commodity in a way that it can be expected to a high degree that affected persons will carry it with them outside their homes (independent from sex and habits) – e.g. the apartment or front door key – and therefore will be installed as key fob (as usual in the case of old hotel keys). 

The most important features planned are: base station for storage with wireless charging and as smart home hub (also for configuration), manual and automatic emergency call function, information and motivation, navigation aid homewards, function as readable ID and mobility card (taxi, public transportation). The WAY-KEY consortium would like to make existing technical (partial) solutions from the corporate partners in a strongly participatory based design process with the help of the research partners usable for persons suffering from dementia in order to support their mobility. 


Project Partners

  • Vienna University of Technology, Institute for Design & Assessment of Technology, Centre for Applied Assistive Technologies (project lead)
  • Academy for Ageing Research at "Haus der Barmherzigkeit"
  • iLogs Mobile Software GmbH
  • TeleConsult Austria GmbH


  • Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG) 


  • Successfully completed in 2018