“Dementia is a decline in mental ability that usually progresses slowly, in which memory, thinking, and judgement are impaired, and personality may deteriorate… It is one of the most important causes of disability in the elderly; […] European Commission 2014)
With ca. 10.9 million people affected by dementia in Europe, with numbers set to double by 2050 (Prince, Guerchet and Prina 2013), with 20 million carers, and with no cure in sight (Alcove 2013: 13), research into dementia is a priority of the European Commission (EC), (OCED 2015: 20). Characterised by progressive memory and cognitive degeneration (Alcove 2013: 13), it is widely recognised that people with dementia experience a range of behavioural and psychological problems and many have reduced social engagement. Therefore, research into care to improve the quality of life of people with dementia is essential, to encourage and enable them to engage in activities that are in line with their interests and experiences (Alcove 2013: 22; Alzheimer’s Society 2013; Alzheimer’s Australia 2008, Victorian State Government 2014).
In response, the proposition of this project is that design can offer novel ways of complementing existing care approaches to empower people with dementia in everyday social situations through its ability to influence people’s emotions and behaviours (e.g. Niedderer et al 2014a, b; Norman 2002). In particular, mindful design is focusing on how design can influence the quality and nature of social interaction (Niedderer 2007, 2014). Mindfulness can be understood as awareness or alertness of the present moment, and as flexibility that allows actively drawing novel distinctions through openness (Langer 1997: 111). Mindfulness can aid with the regulation of emotions, attitudes and behaviours, because it encourages reframing our actions and their causes, helping to adjust them to new situations and challenges (Langer and Moldoveanu 2000). Niedderer (2007, 2014) has introduced this idea into design to demonstrate how design can be used as a trigger to facilitate mindful action by raising awareness in everyday situations through embedding relevant triggers and choices within design.