A user exploring the photostroller, as part of the New Dynamics of Ageing project.The Photostroller, provoking conversations through digital interactions

Interaction to engage mixed audiences in communication and activity. Focusing on spirituality and daydreaming, and designed for the inhabitants of a traditional care home, the devices look beyond stereotypes of frailty. Instead they help elderly people make connections with the world that are of interest and use to them.

Collage of different parts of the photostroller, as part of the New Dynamics of Ageing project.The Photostroller shows a never-ending sequence of images drawn from the Internet, some related, others more random, like an electronic daydream. The flow can be influenced to stay close to a selected category of images, or allowed to drift away to more tenuously related subjects.

Working with people in their homes with the photostroller, as part of the New Dynamics of Ageing project.Prior to its introduction, the research studio carefully studied the appropriate level of interaction for the elderly residents before designing the Photostroller to complement and enhance their daily lives. Part of this work included the design of a wireless control to enable the residents to tune the type of photographs displayed in the slideshow. The tuner includes a large dial and sliding input mechanism specifically designed for people with limited hand mobility. A moment of wonder for the team, during the deployment, was witnessing a 99 year-old arthritic resident handling the controller with relative ease.

Images produced by the photostroller, as part of the New Dynamics of Ageing project.As time goes by members of the research studio will be keeping in touch with the elderly residents in order to understand how the Photostroller adds to their daily lives. At the moment both the residents and the carers seem very happy with it.

Collage of equipment used in the New Dynamics of Ageing Project.
Photography: Dr. Alex Wilkie; Text: Professor Bill Gaver

For instance, some residents have started to take responsibility for turning it on and explaining it to newcomers. Of interest to the design team is how the residents’ engagement with the Photostroller might grow and change over the months to come. The findings were published and are available to download as a PDF [ get Adobe Acrobat reader free ].

“It instigated stories and insights that we never knew about the residents, very engaging and changed the dynamic of the space it occupied”.

Care staff, NHS

Poem commissioned for project

What do you think of the snow? Poem by Kate Kilalea

Surely, in the past, I’d have been able to capture it: this snowy afternoon, with a clear view of its falling a day night in succession through the window. Seldom is it this continuous, the whiteness. Seldom does it get this far. When will it be over, we ask, knowing better, but hoping none the less. For this gradual covering-over to continue, for it to go on, undefeated. She slept with one arm over the edge of the chair. For this gradual covering-over to continue, for it to go on, undefeated.

She slept with one arm over the edge of the chair. Outside, slowly, things were changing one fleck settled on another, to lend it some cold. The branches became two-tone. The garden furniture had heaps on its seats. What are you looking at? For a while, one is content just to stare. But it feels dangerous, doesn’t it, to be stopped here, with a pleasant sleepiness drawing in, and the world through the window growing more and more indistinct.

The significance of this whiteness (because it is so significant) was that it represented, not a disguise, but a kind of takeover: the snow overwhelmed things, in it, things disappeared, they lost their shape, lost interest in themselves  and this is what was so fascinating. And sinister to watch whatever it was that things had been was drained away. It left them unbearably vague. He watched the television with deep participation, and said:

Something has gone wrong, for some unknown reason. We might have said: Things have grown white. We might have said: A whiteness has fallen around us.