The AHRC funded us to create an immersive installation in which we recreated a care home setting in order to showcase our prototype technologies, discuss and publicise the project with others and ask people to think about community, object based story telling and tangible technologies in care home settings.
Following a comment from a resident in one of our research sites, ‘If you want them to come provide tea and cake,’ we did just that – tea cosies, a cake stand always full of traditional and homemade delicacies, and a kettle were key elements in the installation.
We also invited older people from the care settings we are working in to come along to the festival. These visits were incredibly significant for the whole team and we put a lot of energy into ensuring that the people who visited were treated to a great day out in which they were able to understand better the part that they play in the project in a wider context and outside of the care settings in which they live.
Several things struck us as important about the process of involving the older residents in the festival:
1. It was initially difficult to persuade one of the care homes that their residents would benefit from the trip as concerns about their physical welfare were seen to outweigh the other benefits of their involvement. It was worth reiterating out commitment to residents’ physical and social and cultural welfare, our belief that they would benefit from their involvement in the day and their importance to the project as whole, as well as our support for the position of the care home manager in this case. After her initial reaction the manager soon realised the need for them to engage in (her words) practices of ‘managed risk’ for the benefit of older people.
2. It is unusual to see very old adults and/or disabled people in public spaces – our residents increased the number of people in wheel chairs at the festival x8 at least. This visibility felt important to us and is something that we want to continue to do throughout the project – working up to our end of project conference which we intend to be co-designed with older people and the care staff that we have been working with.
3. Seeing the residents out of the care setting shed different light on them as individuals – processes of institutionalisation effect people in different ways- being out of the home settings bought about different reactions and interactions that we can now build on as a project team.
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.
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.
Just back from attending the two day Temporal-Design workshop held at Edinburgh University. I presented on the second day during the Pecha-Kucha session, giving an overview of how I consider time in my designs. The prototype “Story Stethoscope” (I’m still working on a final name) was discussed including how it presents many temporal-design challenges including the consideration of the many timeframes around stories and objects including: the life of the object, the person’s history, the time of the story told and the narrative arc over many stories. Download the slides for my talk here.
The workshop consisted of a number of longer format talks from Kevin Birth, Sarah Sharma, Siân Lindley, Sus Lundgren and Bronac Ferran, and ten Pecha-Kucha presentations. The first day kicked off with a ‘walkshop’ around Edinburgh centre with a history of time-keeping from Kevin. Towards the end of the workshop discussion groups were formed to discuss a number of points ranging from ephemerality and fluidity, through to time and the environment. I found myself discussing the ‘vocabulary of temporal-design’ in a group led by Jen Southern. The group created a rough draft of a possible ten week lecture series on temporal-design allowing the framing of the vocabulary.
The chance to work closely with artist and art workshop leader, Deborah Feiler, from Alive! Activities was a great opportunity to learn more about the potential of creative processes to elicit memories and personal stories from residents in a care home setting.
Starting with a series of three workshop sessions, Deborah and I were helpfully given a research question to frame our creative explorations with the residents: Can older people make objects which are meaningful to them? Some other questions we also hoped to consider included: Does a story have to be told with words? Can art express a memory? Can a collection of objects work together to express a memory? How can the creative process contribute to a better understanding of the individual, in a care home setting?
A select group of participants, with expertise in working with young and older people and including members of the Tangible Memories team (Ki Cater, Pete Bennett and Jennie Reed from Alive!) came together to explore and imagine a future city designed with multiple generations in mind. The themes are hugely relevant to the project as we have become increasingly concerned with the growing spatial and relational divides between the very old and the young, the lack of opportunity that older people have to enjoy being outside and the need to rethink the way that ‘care’ is viewed and organised in relation to our ageing demographic. As Liz Lloyd suggested at our steering group meeting back in February it is helpful to think about care as something that all of us will require at different times in our lives.
The aims of the day were:
To introduce interesting people to each other
To explore what happens when we imagine future cities with multiple generations in mind
To explore the future city through the eyes of different generations
To identify creative opportunities for future collaborations – networks, projects, services
At a recent conference, I was intrigued to hear about a form entitled This Is Me, which aims to ‘help health and social care professionals build a better understanding of who the person really is’, when a person is suffering from dementia and about to enter a new care home. I decided to download a copy from the Alzheimer’s Society’s website, and try responding to it myself:
It was very difficult to summarise my identity and life history in four lines or less and I am only 38. I can only imagine how much more challenging and upsetting this task becomes when you are over 70, 80 or 90 years old, and are perhaps struggling to recall some of the more significant moments or events. Personally, even for me, it was a strangely emotive experience to try and reduce myself to a sentence or two, or a list of points at best. I felt frustrated and humiliated that a single piece of paper should represent the complexity of any human being, and be handed over to care staff with the title of the form declaring ‘This Is Me’. This is not me – I am not a printed sheet of A4. I was also at a loss to know how I should respond (despite the lengthy Guidance Notes provided) to such open-ended statements like ‘I would like you to know…’ (4 lines) and worried about providing the ‘correct’ information under each section. The idea of completing this form, even with a trusted friend or family member to assist, must be very distressing for new residents on the move at a confusing and challenging stage of life.
We played around with using the Oculus Rift today as a means for creating a virtual space for storytelling. Our first two testers M & B both enjoyed the experience. We firstly tried out stepping into a 3D snapshot of the Bristol Museum Foyer, and then took a trip up Cabot Tower. M had a look around a virtual Tuscan Villa whilst B opted for a whistle-stop tour of the Solar System. The next step is to customise the virtual scenes and introduce the possibility of handling objects relevant to the scene during the experience. An interesting finding was that binaural audio recordings played at the same time proved to be a distraction from the visual material.
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 →