Printer Pals: Challenging Perceptions Of People With Dementia Through Inclusive-design Practises
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. Through this research we found 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.
The design and implementation of Printer Pals is 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.
AT HOME WITH TECHNOLOGY
Often electronic devices and technology are not considered appropriate in care-home settings. Printer Pals allowed residents to discuss the role of technology in their lives from their first television to learning about the mechanics of the Printer Pals device.
This challenged the assumption that that older people, and people with dementia are unable or disinterested in engaging with technology.
CO-CREATING KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERIENCE
Printer Pals allowed the residents to contribute their own experiences and opinions to the group with questions such as ‘Have you ever been married, what are your memories from the day?’
These questions allowed the residents to share memories together, weaving together their own stories into a new, shared experience which created opportunities for more meaningful engagement.
Printer Pals also gave the residents the opportunity to take the lead, creating their own meaning from the topic presented by the device. As well as questions, Printer Pals also printed off riddles.This challenged the residents and highlighted their ability and willingness to engage in fun, competitive activities.
LEVELS OF PARTICIPATION
Many residents engaged in the session with various levels of participation, depending on their preferences and abilities. The nature of participation whether directed at Printer Pals or carried out by the residents organically, highlights the nuanced ways in which agency and social contribution are performed in this space.
FUTURE DIRECTIONS FOR THE NATURE OF INTERACTION WITH TECHNOLOGY FOR PEOPLE WITH DEMENTIA
- It is 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.
Does the use of personas within design processes prevent meaningful participation?
How can media capture enhance the lives of both people living with dementia and their families?
How can older adults make meaningful use of digital technologies and community media?