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.