Making makes me feel better: Designing for wellbeing and social values

Jill Brewster, Michelle Kindleysides, Justin Marshall, Jayne Wallace, Colin Wilson

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This paper presents a design-led inquiry, which aimed to explore the benefits on wellbeing for people living with early stage dementia through participatory handcraft workshops. The project took place in a historically immersive environment at an open air living history museum involving a dementia friendly design team consisting of researchers, museum staff, volunteers and people living with dementia. Drawing on historic themes from the museum collections a range of new co-produced items were sold in the museum gift shop.
The workshop activities enabled an understanding to be established of living with dementia, the value of making and the abilities of people with dementia. Through the experiences of this small group we unpick the rich detail of the participatory activities in terms of wellbeing. Valuing the contribution of each individual and working side by side we really got to know personalities by observing the nuances of body language, recognising abilities and shifts in confidence.
We draw out the value of being ‘in the moment’ and also ‘significant moments of realisation’. Often the participants commented that concentrating on a creative activity in the moment could be absorbing, the close connection with materials was shown to be comforting. We observed a commitment and ownership of the project and increased levels of confidence in participants where they valued learning new skills and felt privileged to work and have access to the historic collections within the museum. The co-design project received positive feedback from the local community and visitor interest through sales.
Through the project we sought to support the voice of people with dementia as one participant put it:
‘The trouble is you see, when you’re working everything is fast, you don’t have time to try new things and we’re not in a hurry, making makes me feel better.’ Participant

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 6th International Conference on Design4Health
Place of PublicationSheffield
Number of pages11
ISBN (Print)9781838111700
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2020
EventDesign4Health 2020: Designing Future Health - University of Twente, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Duration: 1 Jul 20203 Jul 2020


ConferenceDesign4Health 2020
Internet address


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