Printer Pals: engaging with people living with dementia in a care-home setting

Digital Health

Collaborators Silverline Memories, University College Cork, Victoria University of Wellington

Abstract

Challenging perceptions of people with dementia through inclusive-design practices.

Method

Printer Pals is a device which prints questions, and plays music to spark discussion for people living with dementia in a care-home setting.

Takeaways

Devices such as Printer Pals open the space for design in dementia which encourages fun, social connection and competition.

Printer Pals is a receipt-based device which prints off questions, riddles and questions, and plays music to spark discussion for people living with dementia in a care-home setting. The residents enjoyed engaging with the technology, offering shared experiences and participating with each other in meaningful ways.

People with dementia, particularly those in the later stages of the illness, are often presented as disinterested or unable to engage with design processes and technological outcomes. Through these inclusive design practises we can challenge the perceptions of people with advanced dementia by encouraging fun, social connection and competition.

May is usually very quiet and non-responsive. When a country music song came on there was immediately a change about her. She announced the name of the singer and started mouthing the words. She started to smile and brought her hands together, swaying them along with the music. I had never seen her so animated. I looked over to Carmel to see her smiling and we caught each other’s eye as she gestures towards her. Researcher working on Printer Pals

The design and implementation of Printer Pals was the final outcome of a larger project which examined the experience of people with dementia living in residential care and the potential of design processes to enrich this experience.

Takeaways

  • It's important to challenge negative perceptions of technology for people with dementia.
  • We can shift the debate away from whether people with dementia have agency by considering agency in terms of caring, and emotional responses to those around them. Instead we can move it towards best understanding how to support them in expressing their agency with experienced-based technology.
  • Through inclusive design practices, we can challenge the perceptions of people with advanced dementia as incapable of engaging with playful and fun activities, opening the space for design in dementia which encourages fun, social connection and competition.
  • In designing technology to bring people together and co-construct meaning, we can examine what this means for individuals within their social environment, broadening the scope of designing for social belonging.