My Vision

Design is a way to benefit society. I want to support people who are having a harder time than others, reducing the negative experiences and increasing their ability to stay independent. Since we live in an ageing society, where people are expected to stay at home longer, I want to support the independence of these people to make staying at home more comfortable. Not only for themselves, but also for the caregivers who often carry a heavy burden. When increasing someone’s independence, I believe this will improve the quality of life not only for them but also for the people surrounding them.

My focus is designing for the elderly generation, especially people with dementia. The number of elderly with dementia is, together with the elderly in general, expected to increase over the coming years (Wimo et al., 2003). With dementia being a progressive disease, there is a design space to assist the target group wherever possible, instead of focusing on a medicine. The biggest focus here is on the home situation, where a large group of stakeholders are involved.

When using design as a way to support the independence of people with dementia, it is important to include these people and the stakeholder throughout the process. Doing so allows for better understanding of the context and the problems the different stakeholders are

facing. A growing care principle closely related to this is the approach of person-centred care (PCC), which is about taking an individual patient’s norms and values as a guideline for all clinical decisions. (Brummel-Smith et al., 2016). A design approach which closely relates to this is the living lab approach, which also shows the importance of involving the users actively in different stages of the process (Brankaert, 2016). With dementia being a progressive disease, there is a design space to assist the target group wherever possible, instead of focusing on a medicine. The biggest focus here is on the home situation, where a large group of stakeholders are involved.

My Identity

My name is Thilly Coppelmans a Dutch Industrial Design Master student at the University of Technology, Eindhoven. I was born in March 1994.

When I was younger, my grandparents lived next door. This allowed them to be closely involved within our household. When I was 4 years old, they moved a few blocks away. This, however, didn’t influence their close connection with our household, and the rest of the family.

When my grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer, this didn’t change this connection. He stayed a cheerful and loving grandpa, with a great interest in what the rest of the family was doing. Although we did experience the difficulties that come with the disease, especially my grandmother. You could see how he was changing, forgetting more things and showing restless behaviour. This had a great impact, especially on my grandmother but also on the family. Unfortunately, he passed away early this year, 2017.

Throughout these years, I have always stayed very close with my grandfather, visiting almost every week, even towards the end. This experience showed me the struggles that surround living with dementia, for the person with dementia but also for the people surrounding them. This experience guided the focus on people with dementia within my vision.

I have always seen myself as a helping hand. Wanting to support and help others surrounding me when they need it. As a designer, I find it important to really get to know the people you want to help and support. Understanding their context, what drives them and what holds them back. Not only the people you want to help but also the people, companies and institutes surrounding them, need to be understood. As a designer, your role is to take all these different points of view into the design process to design products that have a positive influence on a person’s everyday life.

My approach to design closely links to my vision and identity. Involving different stakeholders, gaining insights in what their goals are, and what is standing in their way. It is important to find a balance between what they say they need and how you translate that into the final design. It is the role of the designer to translate the needs of people into a solution that will fit them.

My Work

The work shown in my portfolio closely relation to my vision on designing. During my masters my projects were focused on designing for independence, within the context of elderly and people with dementia.

Working on multiple projects surrounding the same target group allowed me to look at the target group from multiple angles and stakeholders and with different people, which allowed me to learn about a lot of different aspects surrounding the users. The understanding and empathy I have with the target group got more elaborate with every project I did.

During my master’s I worked on three projects. Wanting to design for elderly and healthy ageing, I started with a project on technology acceptance amongst elderly.

For my final bachelor project, I worked with elderly with dementia in the home environment. Relating to my own experience with dementia and seeing that the direction of designing for dementia is growing within the field of design, I wanted to look into a different side of the disease. Focussing on people with dementia during the later stages of the disease resulted in a research project within a nursing home.

For my graduation project, I wanted to stay within the context of dementia. Building upon previous projects helps to understand a complex context, like dementia. From seeing multiple other projects done on designing for dementia, I feel that a lot can still be done within the context of the home. Introducing products with early stage dementia allows for a possibility to integrate the product into daily routines, which allows it to be useful for a longer period of time. This resulted in a project surrounding problems with time orientation for the early stage dementia.