Engaging with dementia on Rens Brankaert’s KTP visit

Between October and December last year, Rens Brankaert visited UTS as a Key Technology Partner Visiting Fellow. In his work as an associate professor at Eindhoven University of Technology, Rens focuses on inclusive human-centred design, interaction design and multi-stakeholder innovation. During his visit to Sydney, the focus was on his work to improve the quality of life for those with dementia and the people in their vicinity. The aim is to design user-friendly products for people with dementia that help them live their daily lives and improve wellbeing and/or increase their autonomy.

In a recent interview with UTS’ Annabel Jeffrey and Alex McAlpin, both Rens and Gail Kenning (who invited Rens to UTS) acknowledge that a very people-centred design process in this area brings unique challenges. As Gail said: “A lot of the work we do is not just changing the system to improve quality of life, it’s figuring out how to engage the people in the design process itself. That ensures the systems we devise work for people in all respects.” Establishing a relationship is key to ensure a successful process, which Rens acknowledged in the interview: “It’s easy when someone’s able to communicate on the same level, but to have a balanced research relationship with someone with dementia, that’s challenging.”

Rens’ visit to UTS enabled him and Gail to continue their conversations and develop further research plans and build on earlier visits by Gail to Eindhoven University. The partnership between the universities helps both researchers to play a stronger role in the research on participatory design processes involving those affecting by dementia. While Rens has returned to Eindhoven since the interview was conducted, the research collaboration will continue. Both believe that the developing perspectives across Europe and Australia reinforce each other and stand to benefit an ever-broader group of people.

Read the full interview with Rens and Gail on the UTS website.

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