Plate with high-lipped profile helps push food onto the spoon. Image Credit: "Design for Dementia", Gregor Timlin & Nic Rysenbry, Royal College of Art Helen Hamlyn Centre
Around 700,000 people in the UK have dementia, over a third of which live in care homes, according to the Royal College of Art Helen Hamlyn Centre which focuses on people-centered design research. Eating and drinking, getting dressed and other daily actions become a critical issue when people are affected by dementia (a serious loss of cognitive ability). Independence and dignity are at risk but don't have to suffer if the correct tools are available, to address the challenges of advanced aging. Yesterday at Barcelona Design Week, Rama Gheerawo showed us how it is possible to design for dementia, and hopefully inspired many designers in the room to do so.
Flat-bottomed table for wheelchair access and adjustable light to improve visual acuity. Image Credit: "Design for Dementia", Gregor Timlin & Nic Rysenbry, Royal College of Art Helen Hamlyn Centre
Designers should get their brief from real people, Gheerawo explained, because they can provide the designer with both inspiration and information. Then all it takes is to listen, and maybe have many points of view instead of just the one, and be creative to come up with solutions. By showing examples of user-centered research, he showed that by designing with the user, design that makes a difference is possible.
Colour contrast for visual impairment. Image Credit: "Design for Dementia", Gregor Timlin & Nic Rysenbry, Royal College of Art Helen Hamlyn Centre
When design for dementia, in order to be successful, the designer needs to focus on the ability, not the disability, says Rama Gheerawo. At the Helen Hamlyn Centre the students found out that people eat more on a dark blue plate because white food on a white plate is often difficult to see for older people with bad eye sight. The shape of the plate can help scoop food onto the fork without having to use ones fingers. Clearer toilet signage can create a safer environment. Last but not least he finished his talk by tackling the fact that "sex never gets old". By that, Rama Gheerawo meant to point out that most sex guides are directed at teenagers, not at the elderly, so, where are the sex guides for older people? If you are inspired and would like to know more about the subject, download Helen Hamlyn Centre's guide on Design for Dementia for free.
[The guide] explores how better product and environment design can improve quality of life for care home residents with dementia. The design ideas developed are a practical response to the challenge of cognitive decline and can be retrofitted to existing care homes as well as applied to new developments.
Royal College of Art Helen Hamlyn Centre
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