A pioneering three year international design research project, aimed at improving the lives of people living with dementia and led by a team from Cardiff Met University, will be showcased at the Senedd this week.
A public event will be held between 10am-12:30pm on 16th March to share the impact of the LAUGH (Ludic Artefacts Using Gesture and Haptics) project, and will enable policy-makers, politicians and the public to learn more about how academics, care-givers and charities have worked together to support people living with advanced dementia by designing innovative playful products that amuse, comfort, engage, bring joy and promote 'in the moment' living.
The LAUGH project is based at Cardiff Metropolitan University's Centre for Applied Research in Inclusive Arts and Design (CARIAD) and brings together researchers from the University of Technology Sydney and Coventry University. The project is partnered by Pobl Gwalia Care and the research is guided by an expert group of advisors from leading charities in the field and people with relevant dementia experience, working in health and social care.
Cathy Treadaway, Professor of Creative Practice at Cardiff Met is Principal Investigator on the LAUGH project. She said: "Our work over the past three years has focussed on designing personalised products which can assist with the care of people living with advanced dementia. Currently there is no cure for dementia and so finding ways of improving the quality of life and bringing pleasure to people living with the disease is more important than ever.
"We have worked as an interdisciplinary team to design a range of sensory products - each one made specifically to address the individual circumstances and reflect the personal experiences of a person living with advanced dementia.
"One of our products - 'Hug', was designed for a lady living with late stage dementia, who was chair-bound with little communication and poor appetite. Her carers told us that what she needed most was a hug, and in response, a long-armed soft-cushion-like wearable object was developed. Embedded electronics have been used to replicate the sensation of a rhythmic heartbeat and speakers are activated by moving the object to play her favourite music.
"Since receiving Hug, carers have observed a number of positive changes to her health and wellbeing, including a significant drop in the number of falls, increased appetite and a desire to communicate and socialise with other residents in the care home. It is heartening and inspiring to see how our work is having a substantial impact on people living with such a complex and distressing disease."
The LAUGH project team use a 'Compassionate Design' approach, which places loving-kindness at the heart of the design process. They work closely with care-givers, health professionals, dementia charities, technologists, designers, artists, and people living with dementia to inform the design of bespoke sensory items which aim to engage individuals and help them retain a sense of self and dignity.
Professor Treadaway continued: "Our products aim to stimulate the senses and encourage people living with advanced dementia to experience being 'in the moment' (not requiring memories of the past or thoughts of the future to enjoy them); and connecting, so that the person living with dementia remains connected to the world and to the people around them.
"Given the predicted increase in the numbers of people living with dementia, there is clearly a growing need for innovations that assist their care. We are delighted to have the opportunity to communicate our work, and the impact it is having, publically at the Senedd this week and look forward to sharing our research and experiences."
The event will be opened by the Older People's Commissioner for Wales Sarah Rochira and sponsored by the Chair of the Assembly's Cross-Party Group on Dementia, Lynn Neagle AM.
The LAUGH project team will go on to host a private view exhibition at the Royal Society of Arts in London on March 28th and will exhibit their work in Sydney, Australia in April.
For further information and to register to attend the Senedd event - 16th March, click here.
For further information on the LAUGH project, visit: www.laughproject.info