How can we enrich the quality of everyday life for people with dementia through sensory experience?
As mentioned before, many sensory tools have proven to be successful and are already widely used. However, many address only one sense at the time, so I wanted to create something that would be easy to use and would offer different stimulations. The most interesting part of the art station would be thermochromic surfaces, where liquid crystals in the surface respond to a change in temperature. One can draw on the surfaces with just the use of their hands as the drawing then slowly changes and disappears. After sharing my idea with the partners, many of whom have worked with sensory objects before, they really welcomed the idea of thermochromic surfaces, as they felt that care homes are always short-staffed when it comes to art therapy. Such therapy is sometimes difficult to carry out as there has to be one supervisor per two participants.
To test different uses for thermochromic surfaces, I designed a few different prototypes: the drawing surface, hidden pictures, dynamic balls, reflection surfaces and the panda cushion. The drawing surface is originally black and reacts to heat, which can either come from touching the surface or any other warm surface such as hand warmers or a hot-water bottle. Another thermochromic material, which is also originally black, turns transparent when exposed to heat, so I put pictures of animals underneath it as a subtle surprise element. I combined visual stimulation and touch by including balls made from different materials, tactile surfaces and Stretchy Sand, which I tried as an alternative to playdough or clay. I also experimented with reflecting surfaces and various shapes. Lastly, I made a panda cushion, which looks like a black cushion until you hug it and as the paint reacts to heat, the panda face appears. I also provided different heating pads and pens filled with warm water in order to make playing around with the thermochromic surface more interesting.