Tangible tea parties

The Tangible Memories team recently had the pleasure of hosting a tea party in each of the three care homes where we are currently working.

This was a great opportunity to celebrate the project so far and to share some of the design prototypes that we have been developing with the residents over the past few months. Alongside the wonderful live music, tea, cakes, flowers and bunting, there were technology demonstrations, and lots of play testing with the project’s design objects and ideas.

For example, the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset was a novelty for virtual travel experiences, such as the aerial views provided by a virtual hot-air balloon ride:

Trying out the virtual experience

Another popular object was ‘ButtonTuner’, the musical cushion, which triggered an animated session of singing along to ‘Singing in the Rain’:

The music playing cushion was popular

All the residents and the care staff too, enjoyed the series of co-produced interactive books, and were able to read the stories and hear the tales of different people’s life experiences, even those from other care homes:

The interactive books being read and enjoyed

Blaise Weston_staff enjoying books2

Exploring the use of pre-decimal currency in one of the homes caring for people with dementia was successful too. After giving out purses full of threepenny coins to the residents, we explained that just for fun, the ‘thrupenny bits’ could be exchanged for a drink and cake of their choice:

Money exchange 3

On the party menus, tea and cake cost 6d, the same price as in 1942. There was some mental arithmetic recalled in the counting, and whole Battenbergs were even exchanged for pooled sums of money!

Money exchange 2

Alongside the reminiscing of tea and cakes shared in the past and the stories evoked,  it was very poignant to observe the residents’ responses to the coins, for a group of people who no longer have access to, or need to use cash in their current circumstances. Some said they were so pleased to have something to give to their grandchildren when the family next visited, comments perhaps linked to years of giving coins as pocket money. Others were fascinated by the thrupenny pieces themselves, holding them, playing with them, seeming to dwell on the tactile experience of the familiar weight, feel and sound of the coins in their hands, secured with the satisfying snap of the purse clip. It seemed as if the purses and the pre-decimal tokens became a new acquisition, all the more coveted and treasured in an environment where people have few possessions, with little practical need for material objects. The game of exchanging old money for tea party treats (while residents were able to keep both at the end of the afternoon) was, in the words of one humorous resident: ‘not devious, just crafty’!

 

Book 3: Introducing Blaise Weston Court

We have begun to co-design our third interactive book with another resident at Blaise Weston Court. When we approached the Tangible Memories group about the book project and showed them our first one, The Eye of the Hare, one man came up with an interesting suggestion. Rather than making a book about his life and memories, he said he would like to create a book about Blaise Weston Court. With so many terrible stories of cruelty and neglect in care homes featured in the news recently, he wanted to document one of the success stories and celebrate the place where he lives.

In our first session, he talked about his idea for the book, how he came to live at Blaise Weston Court and his impressions of how care for the elderly has changed over the decades. For our second session, he wrote up those ideas in two documents, which we are working with to include in the book.

We are co-designing a format to test for his book, which draws on the work we have done so far with books one and two. He is happy for the book to be introduced by him, but in order to give a good overview of Blaise Weston Court we are all in favour of involving a number of different voices including other residents and possibly staff members. For each person, we want to have a photo and short profile followed by the results of a creative activity, which we will do with them in one-hour sessions. We have come up a selection of activities, which include a range of ideas to allow for the varied abilities, interests and memories that exist at Blaise Weston Court.

Co-designing and testing the activities with other residents, will help us to further develop our blueprint.

 

Book 2 – progress report

We are in the process of creating our second interactive book, this time with one of the residents at Blaise Weston Court. It will be a collection of memories, photos and stories from her life. As before, the finished book will contain AR triggers, which allow you to listen to her recalling memories of her mother, the music she loved during the war, and lots of other audio clips and films to add depth to the text and images.

We have been visiting for the past six weeks to build up material that will make up her book. Each session has had a particular focus, such as food, music or clothing. From our conversations each week we have compiled a series of pages, taking text from things she has written and transcriptions of her words to show snippets and memories from her life.

The next stage will be to work with her to decide on which order she wants the pages. As with our first book, The Eye of the Hare, we are interested in juxtaposing memories from different times in her life, rather than displaying them in chronological order, to reflect the fragmented nature of memory. This process of ordering will also allow her to highlight any gaps or significant events/times that she would like to include.

Co-designing is helping us to develop a blueprint of tasks that we hope eventually can be followed by other older people and their carers/relatives who want to create their own books.

We were also pleased today when she said how much she was enjoying the process. She said it has helped her to remember all kinds of things that were buried, going right back to her childhood.

This is a photo of her that she sent to her husband in 1944, when he was stationed in Holland during WWII.

 

 

Making Our First Book

We had never made a print on demand book before, so wanted to test it out before we start working with people in the care homes to create their own reminiscence books.

Barney and I are brother and sister, but we also work regularly with other members of our family, including our parents, Pip and Ali Heywood. We developed a show with our Dad Pip last year, called The Eye of the Hare, which is an autobiographical piece about aspects of his life. It’s a one-man show with him on stage reading extracts and stories from a book he has been writing combined with film and audio clips.

As we have all the material and multimedia for The Eye of the Hare already, we decided to use that to create our initial prototype book. So, the three of us got together with the script and media from the show and tried to figure out how to turn it into an interactive book. Continue reading

Building Memories: The Art of Remembering

While visiting relatives in London, I took the opportunity to pop in to the Victoria and Albert Museum, to see this fascinating display about memory techniques.

Building memories

‘In the age of the internet we rarely rely on the skill of remembering, but systems to assist memory were once essential. One of the oldest is the Memory Palace, which requires picturing a familiar building, then placing vivid images within it. When you imagine walking through the building, the images trigger the facts you want to recall. The technique comes from an ancient Greek story about a banqueting hall that collapsed, crushing the guests beyond recognition. The poet Simonides was able to identify each guest by mentally walking around the table and visualizing them.

Cicero and Quintilian described the Memory Palace in their treatises on rhetoric, which were influential in the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. In the 19th century, when education involved rote-learning facts and figures, different memorising systems evolved and were promoted through lectures, manuals and children’s card games.

But Simonides’ simple and personal technique still appeals. For a mnemonic setting we might use, rather than a banqueting hall, our home, a place characterized by strong visual, sensual and emotional recollections. This display explores the art of remembering, as well as the idea of home as a Memory Palace.’        

Continue reading