José Rodrigo De La O Campos

Photographer: Vincent van Gurp


Today, 18 million people suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. As life expectancy grows worldwide, future populations will not only have a greater risk of developing the disease, they will also be more likely to become primary carers for someone who does. This is why it is imperative that designers examine the situation caused by AD and specifically the relationships between patients and the people around them, like family, friends and carers, as there are many areas where design could help. Designers are currently creating utilitarian solutions and not products that will safeguard dignity, sensibility and emotional sensitivity between the carer and the AD patient. The issue I intend to address in my thesis is: Can we apply design tools that provide new ways of communication between the care partner and an AD patient so that they become an emotional aid for them? Under the premise that people living with Alzheimer’s do not lose their memories, but lose their capacity to access them with normal stimuli, the design field could create tools to enhance existing stimuli to find new ways of connecting between care partners and Alzheimer’s. As recent studies have demonstrated, the Medial Prefrontal Cortex (MPC), which is the part of the brain that works as a hub for familiar music, memories and emotions, is one of the last areas of the brain to atrophy over the course of the disease. This explains why music elicits strong responses from people with Alzheimer’s, to the point that they can evoke emotional autobiographical memories. This design thesis explores the relationship between music and Alzheimer’s. Through designing a system using familiar music from an emotional angle, those close to AD patients would be able to explore new methods to find a more meaningful, intimate communication. This could improve the perspective for new relationships between care partners and Alzheimer’s patients.

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