Yanki C Lee, Niels Hendriks, Albert S Y Tsang

Open Dementia Project_Jan 2017_Cumulus Conference Paper HK


In Chinese society like in many cultures, persons with dementia suffer some level of stigmatisation. For this reason a dementia research/care centre in Hong Kong (China) initiated the design of the “dementia experience tool”. Its main goal is to create public understanding through inviting the general public to experience dementia. The dementia research/care centre commissioned a social design research lab team
(two of the authors are part of this) to create the tool, starting from designing empathic tools. One of the main challenges to design this tool was to find a way to empathise with a complicated condition such as dementia, which is an umbrella term for a series of symptoms, as traditional empathic tools mostly focus on simulation of a specific physical or mental impairment. Additionally, we explored the possibility of using the concept of magic. Magic can be defined as “mysterious tracks: a quality that makes something seem
removed from everyday life, especially in a way that gives delight” [1].

“What if everyday objects become demented?” This was the speculative design statement to kick-start the creation of a set of empathic tools to experience dementia. The end result can be divided in three parts. The first part is the development of the Brain-man: a character/icon to present the project. Part II is about the “Demented City”, an infographic mapping out 11 common symptoms of dementia in such a way that
they were not inanimate but set in a context. These symptoms were transferred into 11 sets of games, the “Demented Objects”. Part III is a set of objects mimicking existing everyday situations like taking an elevator or taking pills but they all hold a twist, a bit of magic through which the experience of having dementia is experienced.

[1] New Oxford Dictionary of English (1998,2001), p1111