One in every three individuals is prone to the risk of Alzheimer’s. Often the path from early diagnosis to mildly severe stages takes a couple of years. However, there is a feeling of helplessness associated with the disease and people experience declining confidence levels. Memory Maps aims to support at such phases of life when things are slowly starting to deteriorate by focusing on the moment of ‘now’ that in turn creates rich experiences for the future.
Often it is not just the person affected by Alzheimer’s who feels lost and lonely but also their family. During our research, we identified that caregivers and family members feel the disease is taking away their loved one and slowly creating a void due to which they start to feel more distant. Memory Maps thereby hopes to push power back into the hands of both the patient and the family members to enjoy each moment when they are together or apart.
We all have a story. A story that needs to be told and shared with those we love. Memory Maps helps preserve these special stories by bringing people closer and encouraging conversations amongst individuals and the family.
Memory Maps was built with close connection to families with Alzheimer’s throughout the research, ideation and testing phase. By spending time with three families we tried to uncover the intangible aspects of the disease. People with Alzheimer’s were very much like other people of their age, full of life and a treasure chest of experiences. However, the disease was gradually taking away this effervescence from them, making them feel weak and unsure. They were slowly becoming more quiet, having lesser to tell or often forgetting what they wanted to share, at a later point of time.
Their family members also felt a sense of distance and helplessness. Constant encouragement from each other helped strengthen their relationship. A few professional caregivers that we met also advocated that some of the most important steps could be taken during these early phases of the disease, helping greatly in the longer run. The emphasis was on having the right outlook and attitude towards the problem and using each moment to live life to the fullest.
Since this disease follows the person wherever he is, the system had presence both digitally when outdoors and also physically when at home.
Memory Maps secures a more optimistic future by strengthening their family ties and shared experiences. Revisiting memories over time provides a notion of ease and comfort when at that location and a sense of contentment and curiosity when conversing about it. There is a certain joy to embrace life as it is and Memory Maps facilitates that for everyone in contact with the disease. It helps patients stay mentally active throughout the recording and reminiscing process, thereby assisting a more self-reliant and independent life. It provides family members with a platform to share past experiences with them that spark conversations and hence feel more able and connected. Finally, it invites the patients and their loved ones to participate in each others memories, think about the present and enjoy that fleeting moment for everything that it has to offer.
Our goal was not to bring back what’s gone but to find out what is still there and nourish and cherish that. Professional caregivers found this to be the core value of the concept because it strengthened the outlook that is desired to deal with such a daunting disease.
Memory Maps is built through an iterative design process with feedback and testing from users at every step. Initial prototypes were built around issues such as way-finding and reminder based systems; however with testing we realized that the core was not just managing daily activities but actually feeling confident and secure about the present.
While the digital platform explores the sense of being accompanied with loved ones, the physical device at home is a tangible conversation starter that enables playful interaction to aid as reminders even when the patient is alone. The digital platforms used are built upon existing comfort levels keeping only basic intuitive functions.
Personalized sound feedback when hearing stories plays a crucial role for patients to help relate to a place and feel more independent. The map used was a customized map that lays stress on the character of a place rather than actual distance or scale.
The system records GPS coordinates and maps corresponding coordinates on the physical device. A small, lightweight, portable object containing an RFID reader reads this data every time the device syncs itself. The physical device has lights below the map that illuminate to indicate locations where stories are stored.