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Design for Dementia

The CARIAD (Centre for Applied Research in Inclusive Arts and Design) team are a multidisciplinary group of researchers from across all schools at Cardiff Metropolitan University investigating the design of products and services for people living with advanced dementia. Their research has influenced care practice, fostered dementia awareness, provided guidelines for the design industry and stimulated business in the UK and globally. 

In 2015, Professor Cathy Treadaway, a member of the CARIAD team developed the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funded LAUGH (Ludic Artefacts Using Gesture and Haptics) project to support wellbeing for people with advanced dementia through playful objects and textiles. The LAUGH project involved an international team of researchers, including Dr Gail Kenning from the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) in Sydney, Australia, an expert in craft, ageing and dementia. This project developed and tested around 10 prototype designs for personalised playful objects for people living with dementia. 

One of the key findings from the LAUGH project was that ‘in the moment’ experience, which is playful and engages the senses, is beneficial to people living with dementia. The LAUGH team developed a particularly successful object, ‘The HUG’— a long-armed, soft cushion-like wearable object that contains a beating heart and plays music. The HUG was found to have a very significant impact on the wellbeing of the person for whom it was made—transforming and prolonging the lives of adults living with dementia. In November 2018, the HUG was selected by the UK Care Industry as one of the four UK finalists nominated by the care sector for Outstanding Dementia Product of the Year. In October 2019, a film was made by the BBC about this study, including an in-depth interview with a person living with dementia and her daughter (watch the film here). This film attracted a huge amount of attention from the public, care homes, hospital health boards and businesses. 

Public reactions to the HUG have been so positive that the research project has become a social enterprise. HUG by LAUGH™ is a spin-out business that has been established to commercialise this research. This business venture is supported by Alzheimer’s Society Accelerator Programme and Cardiff Metropolitan University and has resulted in the creation of three new jobs. HUG® and HUG by LAUGH™ branding have UK Registered Trademarking. You can find more information about the Design for Dementia project and the HUG here.