The Art and Science of Dementia Care is a project researching the effects of tactility and movement on the wellbeing of dementia patients. The project is a collaboration between the studio, Stimuleringsfonds Creatieve Industrie and Cordaan (an Amsterdam nursing home group) and has resulted in a poetic take on the classic rocking chair.
While a rocking chair may not seem like a likely choice as an aid to slow down disease development, studio Samira Boon proves that there is hidden value in both the tactile environment – which stimulates movement of the fingers, thus stimulating the brain – and the actual movement of swinging. Unique in this ongoing research project is the collaboration with patients, scientists, caregivers, and physiotherapists to create a simple, yet effective object that could be used by residents with varying degrees of dementia and mobility.
Boon brings the classic rocking chair to another level by transforming movement into an interrelated sensorial experience and providing a multi layered therapeutic effect. The idea came from clinical neuro psychologist Prof. Dr. Erik Scherder, who proves that movement can have a positive effect on dementia patients, as it slows down the degeneration process of the brain. “We realized that there are three major groups to consider,” explains Boon. “Those who are still very mobile, residents that have limited mobility, and, residents who are almost completely immobile. The Motion Bench is suitable for all groups, but offers the limited and immobile patients especially the possibility to get moving again. This sensation of rocking can reduce anxiety and depression, have a soothing effect, and even reduce the use of medication, as research has shown.”
As some patients require assistance rocking the chair itself, the idea for the Motion Bench was born, creating a social interaction for family member or caregiver with a resident. By incorporating textile structures above the bench, adding soft LED lighting, and even a sound sculpture, a complex sensorial environment is created resulting in stimulation of various senses;
– Vestibular: the act of swinging stimulates the organ responsible for balance in subtle way (which is essential to remain mobile) meaning users are unconsciously exercising. In this way, leisure equals physiotherapy.
– Sight: the swinging movement transforms a limited sensory environment into a sensory rich environment through a play between light and shadow.
– Hearing: sound also plays an important role, as a sound mobile is put in motion when the bench is swinging;
According to various scientist, even the smallest movement of hands over different surfaces – fiddling with the fabrics – is proven to have a therapeutic positive effect. “We started experimenting with highly tactile textiles to encourage fine motor skills, gently massaging muscles and stimulating brain activity in an unconscious way” the designer continues.
Large woven structures were made, with different types of yarn, both hard and soft, three-dimensional, fluffy and smooth. Boon: “We found that letting them just fiddle with the fabrics, and feeling the transition from harder, folded structures into a fluffy, soft mohair really makes some of the residents come to life. That’s really special to see.”
The bench itself is an inviting object and has been placed in the hallway of one of the care homes. With a muted colour palette of soft whites, it doesn’t impose on the otherwise diverse space, and holds no potentially negative colour associations for the residents. Also, by incorporating LED lighting, the colour of the bench can be adjusted to suit the mood or time of day. The character of the shapes is close to nature and familiar to the user, therefore it breeds associations, in turn encouraging brain activity.
First reactions by Cordaan residents have been very positive with patients mentioning that the swinging sensation reminded them of their youth.
Iris van der Reijden, a dementia scientist at the Dementieverhalenbank (dementia storytelling bank) says: “The real power of this design by Samira Boon is the combination of recreational movement and therapeutic movement in one, something usually provided by two separate therapists. The Motion Bench offers an integral experience of movement.”
The ambitions of the project are to further develop the Motion Bench together with a furniture producer so that it can be implemented on a larger scale. The Art and Science of Dementia Care is a collaboration between Studio Samira Boon, the Stimuleringsfonds Creatieve Industry and Cordaan.