Deakin University

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Getting People with Dementia onto the Map: Scaffolding Qualitative GIS

journal contribution
posted on 2023-04-13, 04:17 authored by C Brennan-Horley, Louisa SmithLouisa Smith, D Frost, L Phillipson
A deficit framing continues to surround the perceived capabilities of people with dementia to comprehend and engage with cartographic maps. While some people with dementia might experience issues with wayfinding and spatial orientation, this has frequently been unfairly extended to all people living with dementia. From the perspective of qualitative research, the potentials for how mapping might contribute methodologically to understanding how some people with dementia negotiate and experience place has yet to be fully realised. A nascent turn towards geographic concepts of space and place has seen social health and dementia researchers acknowledging the vitality of place and neighbourhoods for understanding how everyday life unfolds relationally for people with dementia. However, creative methods to capture these spatial experiences are needed. This paper describes the nature of the scaffolds that supported involvement of people with dementia into a qualitative GIS project. These scaffolds were essential for supporting participants to trace out their narratives, histories, connections and barriers to engagement in their familiar neighbourhoods. We demonstrate via an Australian example how scaffolded sketch mapping interviews and crowdsourced maps offer tangible and evocative means to pin their lived experiences to the map. For place-based dementia research, qualitative GIS offers two paths forward. First, with the relevant scaffolds in place, the imaginative power of the map can engage people with dementia in qualitative research about the places they know and frequent. Second, spatial visualisations are imbued with political agency, acting as a conduit toward meaningful change in their local communities.



International Journal of Qualitative Methods






London, Eng.







Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal


SAGE Publications