Can Design provide new ways of communication between the care partner and an Alzheimer’s patient and become an emotional aid for them?
Under the premise that people living with Alzheimer’s don’t lose their memories, but lose their capacity to reach them, the design field can find ways to enhance existing stimuli for new ways of connection between care partners and Alzheimer’s. As recent studies show, the Medial Prefrontal Cortex (MPC), which is the part of the brain that works as a hub for familiar music, memories and emotions, is one of the last areas of the brain to atrophy over the course of the disease. This is why music elicits strong responses from people with Alzheimer’s, to the point that they can evoke emotional- autobiographical memories. As this research is encouraging, we could take these reactions caused by music and reinterpret them in new ways of meaningful connection, between care partners and Alzheimer’s patients.
After the care partner chooses a song that connects him with the patient living with Alzheimer’s, he stores the meaningful song on a digital jewelry piece. A metallic icon who works as an RFID antenna, housed by an translucent gem, triggers the song when placed on top of an vintage-looking audio devise. This digital jewell becomes not only the carrier of an auditory stimulus, but the physicality of the jewell also carries a meaningful connection for the care partner.
The old-looking wooden audio artifact, who has no knobs, buttons or displays, has been designed with the Alzheimer patient in mind. A patient living with Alzheimer’s cannot recognize new objects as musical-providing devises, that is why the designer has to look to the past to design for them. The readability of the object has to be subtle and quiet.
When the patient is stimulated with the song, activated by the digital jewell, evokes in the patient the memories about the carrier of the jewell, providing a new way of connection between them.
Working prototype is full functional. This project is the graduation thesis at IM Conceptual Design on Context Master Program at Design Academy Eindhoven, 2010.