Bear with me, but the following might be a bit general. I’m purposely leaving room for myself to budge around as I come up with more ideas over the summer.
According to recent medical studies, dementia can be prevented or slowed down through lifestyle changes such as an increase in socialization and mental exercises. For my final thesis, I am going to explore a variety of artifacts that will help promote a more social life and increase mental acuity for senior citizens living in nursing homes. These artifacts will specifically address the continued relationship between a senior citizen and their family members by creating an ecosystem that facilitates this relationship through meaningful interactions.
My motive for pursuing this topic stems from my personal experiences of watching my grandmother transition from a once strong, independent person to someone that could no longer care for oneself. As dementia took hold of her, she was moved into a nursing home where there was 24-hour care and supervision.
During my visits with my grandmother, there was a sense of helplessness. She spoke a rare Chinese dialect that I was once fluent in, but had eventually lost due to the lack of practice. Communication between us was reduced to very basic conversations and gestures. Most of the time, I sat next to her listening to what she had to say.
Towards the latter part of her life, her memory started to fade at a faster pace. In an attempt to slow down the process of dementia, I brought familiar artifacts such as family photo albums, Chinese newspapers, and meals that she was accustomed to in her previous life outside of the nursing home. It was a fulfilling experience to see how happy she was and there was also a noticeable change in her behavior. She was more cognizant; she remembered my name; she remembered my brothers’ names; she even remembered how to count from one to ten in English.
Through these changes in behavior, I realized that as an interaction designer, I could potentially help promote these meaningful conversations shared between family members and their loved ones living in nursing homes. By creating an artifact that resides in a supportive ecosystem, family members are empowered with the tools necessary to help create these interactions.