In aging societies, the number of people with dementia (PWD) is growing. But there is still a lack of awareness of the disabling influence of the design of our environment and the objects within it. Focusing on private living environments, this project uses ethnographic fieldwork, expert interviews, and cultural probes to establish that cognitive accessibility (i.e. signage) is rarely applied as an enabling strategy by carers or PWD, even in their own homes, because of social stigma.
«Redesign Dementia» presents strategies for dementia-sensitive design and raises awareness about dementia symptoms by means of a virtual experience. In order to reframe the disease and counteract stigmatisation, the topic is presented carefully without pathologising it. The highly individual symptomatology of dementia requires flexible and creative approaches, so the information provided is also intended to inspire new ideas.
Susanne Barthl tackles a highly relevant topic which will be a constant companion and challenge in an ageing society: dementia. Her work meets current and future needs by addressing not just medical and care-specific concerns but also the living environment. In contrast to many other research projects in this field, she also involves the relatives in her work. Her thesis thus makes a significant contribution to applied future-oriented design, breaks with stigmatised visual worlds by using new aesthetics and creates new kinds of access by incorporating technology, but also offers low-threshold access through a website, a film and an information poster which will have real practical value for the dementia-friendly furnishing of people’s homes. The results derived from the project and the design transfer are further proof that Susanne Barthl really knows her subject. Overall, an exemplary work which has already convinced many in the medical profession, carers, architects and people with dementia, and will continue to do so.
«My aim was to present the topic of dementia in a different light, avoiding pathologising it and not reproducing any stigmas. I also wanted to offer a view of how we will gain knowledge in virtual worlds in the near future.» – Susanne Barthl
«As a designer of meaningful virtual experiences I would like to make the medium more widely known and accessible and, above all, more inclusive.» – Susanne Barthl