Participatory Design &
an Interactive Sensory Prototype for Dementia
an Interactive Sensory Prototype for Dementia
In this thesis, we are examining how we, by a Participatory Design approach, can develop a design that can contribute to a more dementia-friendly environment, and that creates greater well-being for dementia sufferers in their everyday lives in nursing homes.
Dementia is an illness that turns the life you once knew, upside down, where trouble with memory and finding words seem to be prohibitive and can lead to outreach behavior. Today we see increasing cases of dementia every year, which puts a great deal of pressure on the world’s health and elderly areas. Therefore the Danish government has acknowledged the need to improve efforts in the field of dementia, in order to create a good and safe everyday life for people with dementia and their relatives. With this perspective we, as interaction designers, see the potential in examining this area and issues, to contribute to development in the field of dementia.
We have set ourselves to investigate the lives of dementia to understand their situation and needs, as well as gain an insight into the staff's expertise and knowledge. This we have done by interviewing a relative to dementia as well as visiting his wife at the nursing home, Syrenhuset. In addition to this, we have visited the nursing home, Pilehuset: Støtte/være department, to observe and learn more about dementia behavior and environment as well as the caregiver's routines and experience. Thus we have worked with Participatory Design approach, which concerns investigating how to involve people with dementia and other stakeholders in the design process. By this, we have supported and facilitated this involvement through the use of different tools and techniques, as well as meeting the challenges seen in Participatory Design with dementia participants by using the guidelines of Hendriks et al. As the traditional Participatory Design methods are not fully suited to incorporate persons with dementia, and the methods do not consider the lack of the participant's cognitive abilities, we have considered these designations.
Workshop with the caregivers at Pilehuset
Through the design process, we have, in cooperation with caregivers, made a tool for dialogue to collect insights of living with dementia to meet and understand the behavior of people with dementia, as well as the practice of caring for them. With the tools and techniques: making, telling, and enacting we have created a foundation for forming a space for design that could guide us in our further design process. Based on the analysis and the tool for dialogue, we found a need for our design to be used as a mobile and multifunctional, recognizable, age specific, and desirable design for the user that could cover and contribute to stimulating and activating dementia towards a more calm and safe environment.
Together with the dementia participants we made a prototype which formed the basis for our workshop. This to provide the users with the possibility to ‘have a say’ and together with the caregivers form a ‘mutual learning’ and ‘co-realization’ in the design of the prototype, as well as the opportunity to create more learning about our design space. From this perspective, we combined our prototype Vibmentia, that partly satisfies the need to feel safe and calm, as the shape forms a frame for the body. A vibrating energy simulating the patterns of ‘Breathing’ passes through, as well as the weight manages to stimulate the body. The prototype has various aspects of how the muscular sense can provide the necessary tranquillity and how the impact on the sense of touch can delimitate the body.
Trying to enter into a unique group of dementia, we have experienced the challenges of working with people with dementia. However, these challenges have given us valuable insight into the disease of dementia as well as how to implement Participatory Design, and how to make the participants aware of our intentions and process. We have learned that it is important to take into account their deteriorated ability to imagine intangible concepts or abstract thoughts. This created further questions concerning ethics and empowerment. Furthermore, we learned that it is necessary to look objectively at the insights, as well as knowing the participants' background and personality, in order to validate their opinions and statements. We consider it important to fully engage in the lives of dementia over a longer period of time, to obtain more thorough knowledge, a better and natural interaction, and insights in order to get even closer to a sustainable design.