Design for dementia: the research phase

© 2017 Humanly 

© 2017 Humanly 

“In 2017, I truly believe that design is linked to humanity, that you can make the world a better place through design.” Virgil Abloh - creative designer, DJ, and founder of Off-White

The world isn’t designed for people with additional needs, and a lack of accessibility means a lack of opportunity to be independent. NFC Helps Me Limited was spun out of Swiss Cottage School, Development and Research Centre; the only special needs school in the UK to be judged outstanding six consecutive times by OFSTED. Our major shareholder is Swiss Cottage School Charity, which supports children with learning disabilities and works to disseminate best practice in special needs education globally.

The teams’ first creation, co-developed with learners at the school, was an application called How Do I? - a user-led and commercially viable alternative to person-to- person support for those with learning disabilities. Smart IoT technology is used to link a location to a learning experience; empowering individuals, increasing autonomy and enhancing employability. 

We are now seeking to gain valuable customer insight into a new customer group, people with dementia. How can we better understand barriers and enablers to independence for this new group? We don’t want to impose existing solutions on this new group but explore the possibilities of technology as a tool to increase independence.

We are currently partnering with Humanly, a human-centered research and design studio dedicated to social impact, to look closely at the lives of people affected by dementia, exploring the day-to-day challenges they face and how these are overcome. As part of the work, we will consider how technology might be an enabler that allows this group to maintain their independence for longer, resulting in a better quality of life for people with dementia and their families. 

Humanly have helped us develop a working ‘theory of change’ that defines the problems we are trying to tackle, the outcomes we would like to achieve, and our goal for achieving these outcomes. 

So what are the problems? 

  • People with dementia often lose their independence including daily life skills, which makes life difficult for them and the people around them. 
  • People with dementia often lose choice and control. 
  • Services are stretched resulting in fewer places in state-funded supported living facilities and care homes. 
  • There is a fear and lack of acceptance of dementia in society. 
  • There is a lack of opportunity in society for people with dementia to meaningfully contribute the skills they do have. 

And the big goal… How might we enable people with dementia to live independently for longer? And what outcomes are we trying to achieve?

  • Increased confidence, choice and control among people with dementia. 
  • People with dementia are able to live independently for longer. 
  • Reduced fear and stigma around dementia. 
  • Better quality of life for people with dementia and their families. 

The first phase of the design process is the RESEARCH phase. This phase will include both desk (secondary) research and user (primary) research. The output will of the Research phase will be a set of key insights and opportunities that we will take forward into the CO-CREATION phase.


There are seven key research themes we wish to explore with people with dementia:

1. Effect of dementia on people’s lives

2. Daily life

3. Adapting to live with dementia

4. Losing independence

5. Communication with people with dementia

6. Support networks

7. Use of technology


We will be reporting back shortly on how we get on… so watch this space. 


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We are pleased to announce that we will be recruiting two apprentices to work with the How Do I team beginning early 2018, as part of our Shoot to Skill development project.

This programme is open to everyone – but we hope to receive applications from people with additional needs like learning disabilities.

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It’s Learning Disability Work Week! We here at How Do I are passionate about cutting away the barriers to employment for people with learning disabilities. We know it’s the right thing to do – everybody deserves the chance to share their talents with the world!

Our first podcast appearance

We’re pleased to be part of the first podcast series about #TechForGood 
Co-founder Tom spoke to Peter Day at the recent Bethnal Green Ventures Demo Day. 
In the first episode you'll hear inspiring stories from our BGV friends The Hard Yard and Mental Snapp who are also trying to use technology for good. Have a listen and find out more here: 

Bethnal Green Ventures: Introducing the Tech for Good Podcast