Colloquium announcement

Faculty of Engineering Technology

Department Design, Production and Management
Master programme Industrial Design Engineering

As part of his / her master assignment

Jonge, M.G. de (Mirjam)

will hold a speech entitled:

Design of an indoor nature experience for people with dementia.



Nature can contribute to the wellbeing of people. Although elderly people with dementia can benefit from these positive effects of nature, they often cannot go to the forest by themselves anymore. That is why research is done on designing physical objects that approach the experience of being in nature to give people with dementia the calm and healing effects of nature. By providing a permanently available, inviting and recognizable indoor nature experience through multiple senses, the objects could stimulate sensation, relaxation and reminiscence to reduce restlessness and increase enjoyment. The research was carried out in cooperation with nature management organisation Landschap Overijssel and care institution Carintreggeland.

In desk and field research the main findings on dementia were that the brain is not able to properly process information anymore which can lead to restlessness. Nature experience can help to reduce this. There are two main theories about the influences of nature on human health. Stress Reduction Theory (SRT) describes the decrease of stress after short-term exposure to nature and Attention Restoration Theory (ART) describes the long-term effect of nature on restoring attention. According to these theories, nature can reduce stress and keep the brain active without forcing attention.

For designing the indoor product, two brainstorm sessions were held. The eight ideas resulting from these sessions varied in recognisability and in the degree of invitation and overview while emphasizing the aspects of sensation, relaxation and reminiscence. These ideas were evaluated by experts. With the help of this feedback, two concepts were created: the explore trunk and the bendable branches. The explore trunk is a  small-sized landscape made out of a cork bark trunk with elements that imitate natural objects. The bendable branches are a more abstract reference to nature. Four different branches were made, each with its own individual combination of fabrics and fillings. An iron wire core enables the user to bend it in the desired shapes. In the evaluation, twelve elderly home residents with severe dementia explored both concepts under supervision of a care worker. It was concluded from this evaluation that both concepts triggered multiple senses. Of these two the trunk was more easily understood and less external stimulation was needed for interaction with the object.

To conclude, the products that were designed imitate nature and provide a nature experience indoors for people with dementia. Especially the object with a lower abstraction level was associated with nature and triggered senses.