Closer to nature

Closer to nature

An interactive nature experience for people with dementia, living in nursing homes

Closer to Nature provides an opportunity for those who are not able to leave the care home to have a more connected to nature experience.

Numerous researches have been addressing the beneficial effects that nature can bring to human, even the immerse experience of virtual nature can benefit one’s hedonic wellbeing. Despite all the positive impacts nature has on our cognitive, emotional, and physical wellbeing, nature-based interventions are still understudied and under-utilized as a mental health strategy for people suffering from dementia. As their memory deteriorates, implicit memory remains, so tactile interaction becomes increasingly important to dementia group.

Therefore, this project aims to build an interactive nature experience for dementia living in long-term care facilities, where they may not often have access to real nature. We achieve this through a simple tactile interaction, an old-time style water pump that pumps real water into an animal feed water trough, with the background of live feed care farm scene displayed by a high definition screen. Once the system detects that a resident of the care home is interacting with the pump, it sends a video feed of the animals being fed. By combining the natural soothing effect of nature and the principles of animal therapy, our project provides an opportunity for those who are not able to leave the care home readily, to feel more connected to nature, in order to provide for a better quality of life. The design of interaction aims to give the residence a sense of autonomy, self-acknowledgement, as well as fulfillment of responsibility for their caring action of the virtual animals. Meanwhile, due to the low engaging threshold and simple interaction, this installation should be attractive in several stages of dementia.

Through the research of residents with dementia’s engagement situations with this interaction design, we hope to further better understand how to design interactive entertainment systems for this group, what is suitable for their declined cognitive and physical abilities and how to motivate their self-initiated interaction with the system, in order to optimize positive effects for improving the well-being of this group.

By collaborating with Vitalis Berckelhof, which is an elderly center that maintains and improves the life quality of seniors both with and without dementia, where numbers of dementia people and nurse spent most of their time together. We are able to gain the access to all levels of insights from working with different stakeholders and real users all together.

Now, Closer to Nature are permanently installed in Vitalis Kleinschalig Wonen in Eindhoven for further research purpose.

Project details

  • Designers: Yuan Feng, Dirk van de Mortel,Carlijn Valk, Xu Lin, Rens Brankaert, Jun Hu, Emilia Barakova, Matthias Rauterberg
  • Partners: Vitalis Berckelhof