Designs for patients with dementia

Stanford’s Center on Longevity recognizes a colorful table set designed to aid Alzheimer's patients.

A set of tableware aimed at making mealtime easier for people with Alzheimer’s has won the Stanford Center on Longevity’s inaugural design challenge. This year's theme, Maximizing Independence for Older Adults with Cognitive Impairment, is timely: The World Health Organization estimates that 36 million people worldwide now suffer from dementia—a number that’s projected to double by 2050. Then there’s the cost associated with caring for individuals with memory impairments: Depending on whether the care is provided in a facility or at home, 24-hour supervision can range from $6,000 to more than $10,000 a month alone.

Sha Yao, a recent graduate of San Francisco’s Academy of Art University, received first place and $10,000 for her “Eatwell,” a seven-piece set featuring colorful anti-slip bowls, anti-tipping mugs and curved spoons. The designer said she was inspired by her own experiences with her late grandmother, who had Alzheimer’s. “I felt that there must be something I can do to help make life easier for her.” Yao hopes to have Eatwell in production by the end of the year.

Second place and $5,000 went to the team at the Keio-NUS CUTE Center at the National University of Singapore for “Taste+,” a spoon that electrically stimulates the taste buds to improve eating for individuals with diminished taste sensation. 

Ritika Mathur of Denmark’s Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design won third place and $2,000 for “Memory Maps,” a device that uses GPS technology and a radio frequency identification reader to enable individuals with early-stage memory impairment and their loved ones to record and map experiences.

The other finalists included:

  • “Automated Home Activity Monitoring,” Guido Pusiol of Stanford University: A computer-based system that automatically detects activities of daily living and generates a call for help when necessary.
  • “Caresolver,” Arick Morton of Harvard University: A platform intended to give lay caregivers support and facilitate coordination with a larger caregiving team.
  • “Confage,” Ani Abgaryan of San Francisco State University: An engaging gaming experience that teaches the older users how to better use touchscreen devices.
  • “ThermoRing,” Kayvan Mojtahedzadeh of San Francisco State University: A ring placed around an electric stove burner, indicating if it is left on or is too hot to touch, a significant safety issue for individuals with dementia.

The contest encouraged students and recent graduates to not only find practical solutions to improve the lives of the growing numbers of individuals with cognitive impairments like Alzheimer’s but to become leaders in the field of aging. “We’ve been looking for ways to get the conversation going among the younger generation,” explains Ken S. Smith, director of the Stanford Center on Longevity’s mobility division. “Although people talk about our aging population, the whole society is changing, and that’s going to affect younger people as much as older people.”

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