The Living Lab
Seniors with early onset dementia may have difficulty maintaining a regular sleep and wake cycle, which can result in issues like social isolation, increased risk of fall, malnutrition, dehydration, and health problems. If more seniors with dementia continue to live independently at home, it is important to find solutions for this loss of sleep-wake cycle. We are exploring how to design a guiding environment, an adaptive living space that responds to and anticipates the needs of seniors with early onset dementia. The Empathic Home is our experimental site and the fist users have been interviewed on location at the DrieGasthuizenGroep Care Home.
Our aim is to develop a design concept for a Guiding Environment that enables seniors with early-stage dementia to remain in their homes for. The technology adapts seamlessly to the user and provides a safe and comfortable living environment. These technologies should simplify, not complicate, the lives of seniors. Instead of monitoring their activity, they should encourage and assist the user, such as opening curtains in the morning, simulating bird sounds, and guiding seniors through their morning rituals with a warm and personalized voice. The COOK3R, the smart interactive stove, can also be of service when cooking an egg, for example.
In collaboration with various stakeholders, a demo model of the Guiding Environment was developed and tested in the Empathetic Home. This was done using the four phases of the Empathetic Design Method. In the exploratory phase, the needs of seniors with dementia were mapped out through literature research, interviews with carers and healthcare professionals, focus groups with seniors with dementia, and observations. In the second phase, these needs were translated into various usage scenarios. Design concepts were created during co-creation sessions with professionals. In the third phase, these usage scenario’s were incorporated into a prototype of the Guiding Environment. In phase four, the first user tests were carried out in the Empathetic Home and at the DrieGasthuizenGroep care facility. Parts of the project were tested with seniors with dementia.
The outcome so far
A first prototype of the Guiding Environment and a tool have been developed and offer a vision of what it will look like. The prototype is being refined in the Empathic Home, and the Guiding Environment tool, an interactive PDF that gives a clear understanding of the Guiding Environment’s purpose and design, is being used to share the vision with stakeholders. Two follow-up studies will be conducted to evaluate whether the projections and light and sound signals used in the Guiding Environment prototype are suitable and meet the needs and preferences of individuals with dementia. The prototype was evaluated with caregivers and professional care providers of this group. A follow-up project will start in September ’22 to further develop the Guiding Environment.