The brief for the 2013 program revolved around the theme of ‘Identity’, inviting designers to explore how design can be used to convey, create or reflect a sense of identity through an object or experience.

Among the four 2013 residents that were selected to have their projects exhibited was Chloe Meineck who created the Music Memory Box for people suffering with dementia. Seeking to create an alternative therapy for patients, Meineck’s Music Memory Box can be used by individuals and the families of those who have a confused or fading sense of personal memory and identity.

Meineck created her first wooden Music Memory Box while still a student at Brighton University, UK, studying 3D Design. Research into why music had such a positive effect on people with dementia led her to the creation of a box that contained the dementia sufferer’s most precious objects, each representing an individual family member. These objects contained RFID tags that enabled them to play an individual piece of music when placed in the centre of the box, triggering memories associated with that family member.

“The Music Memory Box uses multisensory stimuli to reconnect and rediscover hidden memories for people with dementia,” describes Meineck.

Since graduation, Meineck has improved on her product following various user sessions in care homes and working alongside technologists. She has taken on a kit approach to the product and is using a Raspberry Pi single-board computer to create the kit.

For the Design Museum residency she created a kit that families can complete with their loved one who has dementia or for care-home staff to complete with their residents. She designed three shoebox-sized boxes, one of which was specifically for Adrian Clarke, a man who has had Alzheimer’s disease for four years and doesn’t remember his family.

His favourite object in the box is a cassette tape that represents his late wife as they used to send one another cassette tapes of music when living apart. The piece of music played when he places this object in the centre of the box is ‘You’ve Got a Friend’ by James Taylor. When it starts, Adrian can suddenly remember not only that he had a wife but all the good times they shared.

“From a slightly confused character, Adrian comes alive. He starts singing along and chatting about all these stories that have suddenly been connected together in his brain. Also, the best moment of my whole residency was when he then pointed to a photo of himself on the lid of the box. Before he was asking who that man was. This sums up the ‘identity’ support that I am hoping to offer through the Music Memory Box,” explains Meineck.

Meineck believes that her product has commercial potential and is currently setting up her own design company with the aim of getting the Music Memory Box to market as soon as possible.

designmuseum.org

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