Healing Spaces

“A smart platform that allows caregivers to transform spaces through light, color, sounds, and visuals, turning any environment into a place where older adults living with dementia can focus, engage, and relax.”

I was a designer and usability researcher on this hybrid digital and physical media experience, a USC MFA thesis project by Gabriela Gomes.

I am incredibly proud to have contributed to Healing Spaces. This project was based on evidence that multi-sensory activities can help older adults with dementia relax and engage with their environment. I collaborated with Gabriela on the design of the experience flow and the caregiver’s basic user journey. I also led a usability study using the RITE method to improve the digital component of Healing Spaces, the iPad app.

We ran a pilot of the system at a memory care community and I got to meet the residents and their professional caregivers face to face. It was so rewarding to see how even a relatively simple experience through Healing Spaces — with a visual and auditory backdrop and tactile, scented props — created new context and opportunities for the residents and caregivers to connect with one another. The pilot showed great promise for the feasibility of Healing Spaces, which we explored in a paper published in the Proceedings of the PETRA 2020 conference.

Read our published paper on Healing Spaces

One of the most striking lessons I learned from working on and exhibiting Healing Spaces was that even something designed for a very specific population with unique needs can appeal to and help many other kinds of people. Caregivers at the memory care community said Healing Spaces was meditative and relaxing for them too; guests at E3 mentioned family members with a variety of conditions to whom they wanted to bring Healing Spaces; and middle school children at IndieCade played intently with the kinetic sand and seashells in one of the sensory boxes. Healing Spaces might be intended to address symptoms of dementia, but its potential goes far beyond that.

Nominated for Best Student Game & People’s Choice Award, 2019 Games for Change Awards

Featured in Variety

Columbia Digital Storytelling Lab’s Digital Dozen Award Winner 2019

Selected for IndieCade Festival 2018, Gaming Everywhere Showcase

A “Top Idea” from the 2018 OpenIDEO Caregiving for Dementia Challenge

Official Multimedia Selection, European Forum of Primary Care 2018

Selected for IndieCade Showcase at E3 2018

Selected for the 2018 USC Games Expo

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