Young designers who understand seniors’ needs

Drapilux presents results of their interior textile award

In 2030, more than half of the German population will be older than 48 with forecasts predicting that the number of people aged 80 or over will have risen by almost 50 percent to 6.3 million by then. “Today, somebody in the world is diagnosed with dementia every three seconds. And the number of dementia sufferers in Germany is expected to double by 2050 unless an effective therapy is found”, says Dan Schmitz, CEO of Schmitz-Werke in Emsdetten. “Facilities for senior citizens must begin making provision for the future now.”

All in all, a good reason for the company’s to hold the 2nd ‘drapilux interior textile award’ (DITA) competition under the motto “Do you speak dementia?” The task: young designers were asked to create furnishings with textile coverings suitable for use in residential care homes for dementia sufferers. Students of interior architecture and architecture from 16 universities throughout Germany entered and produced some amazing results.

The jury was particularly impressed by the entry of Mira Kapral and Elina Kreis, two 7th semester students of interior architecture at the University of Mainz. Called ‘Attendant’, their idea is a wall panel that promotes patient independence with the aid of a clever orientation concept – an interactive lighting system that guides patients through the corridor to a common room at night. “Thus, patients do not feel alone if they wake up feeling fretful or unsettled”, explains Mira Kapral. The light prompts the user to follow the light intuitively. “Because the perception of depth of many dementia sufferers is changed, they can also experience the structure by feeling their way along the textile surface”, adds Elina Kreis. To this end, the fabric was shaped three dimensionally using heat and pressure. Additionally, the resulting ‘bumps’ in the textile have a silicon backing to improve the sensation of touch.

A clever idea that convinced the jury in all respects. For ‘Attendant’ is both an adaptable wall decoration and something that offers dementia patients haptic and visual stimulation. “The aesthetic and functional elements mean that corridors progress from being places that people simply pass along to activity zones offering sensory inspiration”, said the jury explaining its decision. Moreover, this was accomplished with a relatively small budget.

Rita Breer

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