Seam - Creating togetherness and connectedness between individuals with dementia and their loved ones

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Brief

How to support remote connectedness and togetherness between individuals with Alzheimer’s and their loved ones?

Approach

Human-centered design process involving remote user-interviews and participatory workshops over zoom and miro.

Impact

Product-service systems enabling the elderly and their loved-ones to remotely communicate with each other by creating a routine of exchanging memories through photos, videos and live video calls.

Details

Remote 10-week group project with Anna Puchalska and
So Heum Hwang at the
Umeå Institute of Design in partnership with Microsoft

Type

General-user Product

My Role

Remote Ethnographic Research /

Co-Creative-Workshops /
Service design / UX Design/  Filmmaking / Storytelling / 
Form-giving / Visualisations

Seam Concept-video, 2020

Dementia and Covid-19 

Over 800,000 individuals with early-stage Alzheimer’s live alone and they are more likely to experience faster cognitive decline compared to individuals living with someone. 

While COVID-19 opened up new opportunities for remote communication, some parts were still not technologically accessible for marginalized groups, including individuals with early Alzheimer’s. We discovered a mixed range of unfulfilled needs — a need for belonging, interacting and sharing meaningful experiences with loved ones — especially when they are alienated in the midst of social distancing.

“If you met a person with dementia, you’ve only met one person. In other words, each individual will talk, act, remember and behave differently. The disease will develop

differently with each individual" - Ulli, caregiver of a dementia patient 

Margaret a Dementia patient 

A dementia-friendly portal to the digital world

Our proposal consists of a portal and a camera connected to the TV set. While using the portal, users with dementia simply tap the button that lights up whenever they receive a message from their loved ones. This physical tapping experience allows them to easily enter the digital world. Their loved ones can send either photos, films and voice recording. This can remind them of past memories and help to keep in touch, effortlessly.

Due to Seam’s modular composition, loved ones can also have several usage options that they can choose from. They can only use a mobile app to connect or have the app and the portal as well, which provides a more connected experience with individuals with Dementia.

The complete package consisting of a webcam and the portal device and an APP and instructional material 

Seam comes in three different configurations  

The portal device for recording and accessing messages

The portal device lives in the elderly user living space and is meant to be placed next to the TV station

The camera for video-call at the TV-station 

The webcam is primarily meant to be instaled at the elderly user'S TV station but can also be used by the caregivers if they wish to use a larger screen as well

Smartphone application for the caregiver

The system map of Seam 

Asynchronous and Synchronous communication

The connection between users can be done both synchronously and asynchronously to create more space for voluntary participation and also to integrate the communication process into their everyday life in a more natural way. 

This asynchronous method of sending each other memories whenever they think of each other may not connect them exactly at the same time. However, this maintains both of them to constantly keep in touch by providing flexibility when it comes to communication.


Individuals with Alzheimer's can record and send voice messages, while their loved ones can send voice messages, photos and video content. They can check the content received from their loved ones through a notification light in the portal device.

How content from loved ones can be displayed on the TV 

Margarete receiving photographs

from her granddaughter Anna

How users with Alzheimer’s access record messages

Margarete sending voice messages to Anna while she's initiating a video call

Dancing and singing synchronous to Margaret’s favourite song

The key-steps of our process

Seam has been created remotely utilizing digital collaborative tools like Miro and Zoom for doing interviews and workshops or Figma for creating user interfaces and infographics.

 

Read about our remote process on medium.com and get our remote workshop guide here

In our remote ethnographic user research, we talked and co-created with 10+ ambassadors of Alzheimer patients like caregivers, therapist as well as their family members and friends

Workshop with experts - caregivers, occupational therapists, educational nurses, hospital staff - to identify goals and shaping principles for the design process

Setting up the remote interview framework and creating consent

After successfully scouting for workshop participants in online support groups, therapy centres and in our own community we created a project brief, detailed set-up-instructions and a consent form for our participants

Journey-mapping practices and snow-ball interviews 

While we were interviewing out participants we sketched their story journey. In the next step, we revisited their the sketch with the interviewees to qualify their key moments from the journey  

Co-creating and validating concepts with the Alzheimer's community 

We co-created ideas product ideas together with the community regarding their wishes, values and expertise. In the next step, we askes them validate high-level concepts, interaction flows and form proposals 

Ideating, visualizing and prototyping Seam

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