Designs for Dementia

Imagine getting a packet of pasta from your kitchen cupboard, placing it on the worktop and a recipe lights up the wall behind!  As well as step by step instructions of how to cook, information about the nutrients and a reminder to take your medication.

Our final meeting with the scientists was a visit to the Culture Lab at Newcastle University where the corner of a room full of ideas and inventions is dedicated to the development of the Ambient Kitchen.

This is being designed to enable older people with dementia to live independently using ‘persuasive technology’. Imagine an iPad chopping board that tells you that you are putting red apple slices in your pasta – when chopped red pepper might be a better option.

How many fictions could a creative writer scribble with that source of material?  I imagine my own mother, never keen on cooking at the best of times, leaving the technology talking to itself while she popped out to the Eight Bells for a sherry.  Or the confused older people becoming quite alarmed at the instant messages.

Meanwhile my own series of Flash Fiction for the project is now completed. There is that moment of grief when the final draft is emailed for the wider world; it’s a bit  like sending your precious child to her first day at school and the shocking reality that you can  no longer own  the destiny of your offspring.

The six stories in the Dementia Dilemmas series are all trimmed and spell checked so that each one will fit onto one side of  an A5 post card. Finding a design to fill the other side of the card is yet another dilemma. How to find an image that avoids ageist stereotypes yet captures the productive life of the individual before the medical condition of dementia stole their memory?  How to create a design that highlights the writing and compliments the reality of the story?  How to find a design that captures a wide audience as well as being used in dementia day care settings? Budgets and timescales throw in yet more considerations.

Working with both photographer and designer, I think we have got something that catches the eye and will encourage people to spend a few minutes reading the stories.  The advantage of Flash Fiction is that it suits a modern age where we want instant and concise communication.

Perhaps that is what older people with dementia want too.

Romi Jones

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1 Response to Designs for Dementia

  1. elibec says:

    I have really enjoyed the challenge that these posts have given to the idea that people with dementia are a burden, a good reason to change the laws around euthanasia and not worth wasting time over. There is much complexity in any situation with an older person requiring care, and perhaps even more so when dementia is part of the picture. I think we do ourselves a disservice by trying to simplify every issue we face. It is understandable that we do this, but it is not ‘true’ in a real way, and not the way to any useful responses or answers to the dilemmas we face with dementia, old age, vulnerability, being ‘needy’, being ourselves (whatever that means), and heaps more. Thanks for your work!

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