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Brief Published: 13 Jul 2017

Designing for Alzheimer's Patients & Carers

Design for the Mind

Industrial design students from New York’s Pratt Institute have worked with medical experts, caregivers and patients to develop products that will improve the day-to-day lives of people who have Alzheimer’s disease. Their collection was showcased during the city’s International Contemporary Furniture Fair.

Everyday tasks can become difficult for those experiencing memory loss – a common symptom of Alzheimer’s. Some products had the objective of helping people relearn an activity, while others used clever design to simplify tasks and remove confusion.

One example was the Mirror Table, which helps a cared-for person brush their teeth or eat food by copying the actions of their carer. Each person sits either side of a wooden frame, as if they are looking at a mirror.

Other projects include a clock that illuminates with the sun or moon to prevent confusion about the time of day, wallpaper with a Velcro texture that allows users to store objects and avoid misplacing smaller items, and oversized dice with pictures of hobbies or accomplishments that can trigger storytelling and conversation.

Pratt students worked with the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum and the Alzheimer’s care organisation CaringKind on the project. By working with CaringKind, the designers learned more about the disease and its impact, giving them precious insight into the needs of carers as well as patients.

As highlighted in Diversity Outlook, designing with marginalised groups – rather than for them – is becoming increasingly important to guarantee that products and services truly meet the needs of their intended audience.