Design Thinking

Designing for the Elderly with Alzheimer's

It was a breezy cold day in fall. I heard my mom calling for my grandmother and she wasn’t answering. I ran to the living room only to find the front door wide open. Grandma had escape again.


The first time she was lost, someone that we knew found her in the street making gestures and pacing back and forth. She wanted to send money to her children in Haiti and got lost along the way.

We found out that my grandmother had Alzheimer’s  in 2006 and tasks that seemed so simple she was beginning to forget. Like how one time I was really frustrated that she dragged me all the way to the basement to turn the nobs on for the washing machine. Such first world problems now that I look back. Granny would forget where to put the plates after cleaning them, and constantly calling out to people that weren’t in the room with us.

Then she escaped on a fairly gloomy, cold day in Fall. Fearful that she would get hit by a car, I ran out to find her. I kept thinking to myself where would she go? I had an aunt that lived about a half away from our home, and thats the direction I headed. I found my grandmother walking down one of the two paths we always took to get to my aunty’s house. That’s when it really hit home. Grandma’s sick.

While scrolling through my twitter feed today I came across a TED talk,

My simple invention, designed to keep my grandfather safe bKenneth Shinozuka. Kenneth Shinozuka designs smart products … He’s been doing so since he was in kindergarten. As I listened to his talk it was familiar grounds as I recall  few of the same incidents that happened with my grandmother when she was able to walk:

  • constantly getting up trying to go outside in the middle of the night.
  • my grandmother instantly getting lost because she had no recollection of where she was.

I bring up Kenneth’s talk for two reasons:

  1. These are the types of everyday problems I’d like to solve. How to improve peoples lives regardless of their age or location. 
  2. This is design thinking. Kenneth find a problem thats increasing across the world day in and day out.

Kenneth had a preliminary design, found additional problems and then continued to iterate until he found the best solution.

This is the type of design thinking I’d like to take part in. My desire to want to continue in developing products is to that we can better equip people.

If you are wondering how my grandma is doing she is ok. She is no longer mobil, vocal – she can’t do anything for herself anymore. It’s sad watching as time goes on but I continue to talk to her as if she is in her right state of mind.


Click here to listen to the full presentation on designing for change and impact.


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