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Mindful design solutions socially engage people with dementia

Dementia is associated with psychosocial and behavioural difficulties. European scientists designed mindful activities to improve the social interactions and quality of life for those living with dementia.

Health

People with dementia can have problems recognising and relating to other people; this poses a challenge for their social engagement and well-being. To improve their quality of life and reduce healthcare costs, it is important that people with dementia be viewed as capable and unique individuals with the potential to participate in community activities.

Recruiting mindful design for people with dementia

The MinD project was undertaken with the support of the Marie Skłodowska-Curie RISE programme, to develop innovative design solutions for people with dementia. Partners used the concept of mindful design to help boost this target group’s confidence and self-empowerment. “Design is everywhere around us; it can influence and change all aspects of our lives. We must work to ensure that it does so to improve our lives,” explains Kristina Niedderer, principal investigator and professor of design at Manchester Metropolitan University. The project brought together 17 partners from 8 different countries. MinD consulted over 100 people with early to mid-stage dementia, family members and carers from 4 European countries during the research and design process. They were asked to express their needs and challenges to provide insight into how future products can be best designed. The interviews highlighted the need for more support following diagnosis and the importance of maintaining social relationships and contributing to society.

Enhancing social interaction and boosting confidence

MinD co-designed four products to support people with dementia to adjust to everyday life and enhance their confidence and quality of life. The ‘Living the Life’ reflective booklet contains simple mindfulness exercises to help with relaxation and reflection, as well as advice on how to maintain a mindful attitude. The booklet is available in English, Spanish and German. ‘This is Me’ is a storytelling board game that allows people with dementia to reminisce on the past, and based on previous experience, motivate themselves to face the future with confidence. The game was evaluated in day-care groups in four countries: people with dementia found it enjoyable, as it allowed them to socially interact and think positively about the future. It is expected that the game will be in production and available to the public in 2021. People living with dementia can stay socially engaged through the project’s ‘Let’s Meet Up!’ digital platform for social interaction with chosen family and friends. Lastly, the ‘You & Me’ discussion tool encourages people with dementia to express their perspectives. The views of carers are also noted.

Guidelines on person-centred support

“MinD gave people with dementia a voice to say in what they feel they need to live their lives their way,” emphasises Niedderer. This is reflected in a guidelines report and in a concise and practical toolset for co-designers. The key aim is to promote the development of human-centred interventions that put the person first, not the technology. MinD successfully demonstrated the power of design to provide better support and care for people with dementia. Future plans include connecting this group to the wider community through finding the right opportunities. This will be developed under the newly funded I-Do Service Horizon 2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship programme, due to commence in October 2020.

Keywords

MinD, dementia, mindful design, quality of life, social engagement, tools, booklet

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26 May 2020