Connectedness for enriching elderly care: Interactive Installation & System Design in Care Home Context

Ageing has become a global topic with critical challenges for years. Currently, most attention of design and technological solutions for the ageing population is paid to physical health, mobility and safety, while in the field of social wellbeing and mental health, which are also important in ageing process, there is still much space to explore.

Elderly people, especially the ones moving into care facilities, usually experience the decline of physical condition, transition in social life, and, sometimes, difficulties in catching up with rapidly-updating technology. These changes along with the ageing process may lead to an inactive and less connected lifestyle, which finally brings negative influences to elderly’s mental and physical health.



Uitkijkpost (“Outlook” in English) is an initial platform to help enhance the social connection between care home residents and people from neighbourhood through a real-time view-sharing experience. It consists of a group of specially designed camera kits (“Viewbricks”) and a gallery-like interactive installation (“Uitkijkpost”).

The camera kits are designed to provide openness for local people to share sceneries via public participation. By adopting and putting the kits wherever they choose, people can share a live view of nature, activities or places related to old memories with the elderly. The interactive installation presents the shared live view and triggers further communication between sharers and receivers with a “postcard-sending” metaphor: by pressing the buttons under each photo frame, residents can receive real-time printed postcards of the moments with greetings and comments from the sharers. They can either keep the cards or write back to the sharers.

The interactive gallery of Uitkijkpost constantly shows the ongoing happenings shared from different places. Some views are from famous local areas, some are related to the interests of volunteers and residents, and some are from the places related to elderly peoples’ old memories. When presenting the live scenes, Uitkijkpost keeps people aware of the happenings in local life and helps facilitating the connection between residents inside the care home and the remote places via the synchronism of the real-world changes.

The real-time connection with local places also facilitates a shared experience between volunteers and elderly people. When they interact with Uitkijkpost, the revealed common interests and memories may become potential triggers for further communication.

Printing postcards is one of the important touchpoints in the system, aiming to engage and connect people through the simple interaction and the physical evidence.

By pressing the buttons under the photo frames, residents print postcards for their favourite moments and also express their appreciation towards the volunteers. The popularity of the views may influence volunteers’ motivation and future choices in sharing activities. Meanwhile, the greetings from volunteers are printed on the back of postcards, simulating the context of people sending postcards to the residents from those shared places.

The postcard itself serves as a physical evidence in the system, since elderly residents prefer the real things to keep or share with others. It extends the connection and triggers further social interaction by providing the possibility for users to continue their conversations in different time and places.

In Uitkijkpost system, the public participation of local communities is important for the sustainability of the system, technically and socially, and a suitable mechanism to support the participation still needs to be explored.

In current design, camera kits (“viewbricks”) are designed to be portable and able to work independently outdoor, with an aim to allow people to join through an open and flexible way. Volunteers can participate in the sharing activity by simply picking up the viewbricks and putting them into new places they choose. If needed, they can also check the detailed information of each viewbrick or leave comments through the online platform.

MemorySharing is a participatory platform designed to enrich elderly people’s experience in social interaction by encouraging them to share memories and co-create stories with other people in a crowdsourcing way.

Elderly people usually have rich experience and memories related to the places where they lived, worked or visited. Through this platform, elderly people who want to tell their stories may share their contents through typing, recording, or handwriting letters. The stories will be presented on the platform based on their location data, in order to form a collective “story map”.

On the other hand, people who are interested in exploring cities with the stories or willing to be volunteers can receive the posts through the special designed map application and social media like twitter and Facebook. If they like the stories, they can join to enrich them by taking new photos of the places where the stories happened, or help spreading the stories by highlighting key information to attract other readers or translating stories into local languages in some international cases.

With the cooperation between readers and the story tellers, the story will be continuously growing on the platform, connecting the past and the current life. The growing stories with new photos and comments, in turn, will also be sent back to the elderly people in a nice visual and physical style as a reward.

In the concept of MemorySharing, people can share their stories in multiple ways: typing, audio recording, or uploading pictures of written stories.

The “Letter Writing” Concept is an iterated design based on handwriting, used in care home contexts. Since most of the residents in the care homes are not familiar with computers and smart phones, the interaction of story sharing needs to be more familiar to their daily life and easier to understand. In this concept, people can write their stories on letter paper and throw the letter into a designed mailbox to “send it away”. The system embedded in the mailbox will automatically take photos of the letters and uploads the pictures as new story post. Later, the residents who send out story letters will see the stories with newly-added photos on the big screen next to the mailbox.

MemorySharing not only collects and shows elderly people’s stories, but also allows people who are interested in the contents to join and enrich the stories by taking photos of the places mentioned in the stories and adding their own comments. The stories are no longer “completed” but become “growing” under the cooperation between elderly people and their readers, connecting the experience from the past with the life in current days. The co-creation of the stories, as a shared experience between all the participants, may bring positive influence on people’s feeling of being connected. Furthermore, the photos and comments as feedbacks from people who have read the stories may also provide elderly people a feeling of being cared and respected.

References

C. Li, X. Lin, K. Kang, J. Hu, B. Hengeveld, C. Hummels, and M. Rauterberg, “Interactive Gallery: Enhance Social Interaction for Elders by Story Sharing,” Advances in Digital Cultural Heritage, Lecture Notes in Computer Science, vol 10754 Series, pp. 104-116: Springer, 2018.

C. Valk, X. Lin, L. Feijs, M. Rauterberg, and J. Hu, “Closer to Nature – Interactive Installation Design for Elderly with Dementia,” in Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies for Ageing Well and e-Health – Volume 1: ICT4AWE,, Porto, Portugal, 2017, pp. 228 – 235

J. Hu, J. Frens, M. Funk, F. Wang, and Y. Zhang, “Design for Social Interaction in Public Spaces,” in 16th International Conference on Human- Computer Interaction, Creta Maris, Heraklion, Crete, Greece, 2014.

X. Lin, K. Kang, C. Li, J. Hu, B. Hengeveld, M. Rauterberg, and C. Hummels, “ViewBricks: A Participatory System to Increase Social Connectedness for the Elderly in Care Homes,” Intelligent Environments 2016, Ambient Intelligence and Smart Environments Series, P. Novais and S. Konomi, eds., pp. 376 – 385, 2016.

X. Lin, J. Hu, and M. Rauterberg, “Review on Interaction Design for Social Context in Public Spaces,” Cross-Cultural Design Methods, Practice and Impact, Lecture Notes in Computer Science Series, 9180, P. L. P. Rau, ed., pp. 328-338: Springer International Publishing, 2015.