President*s Design Award 2023 winner: Hack Care for a dementia-friendly home

Hack Care, which covers simple design hacks for improving the lives of those with dementia at home, has been awarded Design of the Year at this year’s President*s Design Award.

  • President*s Design Award 2023 winner: Hack Care for a dementia-friendly home

Text by Janice Seow

The biennial President*s Design Award (PDA), which recognises the outstanding designers and projects that have positively impacted the lives of Singaporeans and the wider global community through design excellence, has just announced the winners of the 2023 programme.

A total of six projects and two designers have been awarded “Design of the Year” and “Designer of the Year” respectively.

Hack Care for living with dementia

One of this year’s “Design of the Year” recipients is Hack Care, a book and toolkit by Lekker Architects in collaboration with Lanzavecchia + Wai that empowers caregivers to provide a life of dignity and grace for persons with dementia.

Beyond clever wordplay on a local pun or a ubiquitous furniture catalogue, this project provides creative, affordable and practical ideas, and democratises and facilitates inclusive design with each thoughtful hack.

Hack Care for living with dementia

Given that one in 10 people above the age of 60 years live with dementia in Singapore, Hack Care is a valuable and timely reminder that now more than ever, it is crucial to challenge our preconceptions and shape behaviour and thought around this condition.

Hack Care for living with dementia

Styled like an IKEA catalogue with instruction manuals, the 240-page Hack Care presents a visual compendium of more than 50 hacks and tricks, essays and stories to help make living with dementia at home easier. It also aims to help caregivers tackle the daily challenges of caregiving. The book’s can-do, DIY approach seeks to inspire and encourage caregivers to come up with their own hacks that are suited to their homes and personal needs.

Hack Care

Hack Care combines the design and research insights of Lekker Architects with the expertise of product and furniture designers from Lanzavecchia + Wai Design Studio. It also involved the collective knowledge of professionals from Alzheimer’s Disease Association – ADA, Brahm Centre and Khoo Teck Puat Hospital on the caregiving journey.

Hack Care

Ong Ker-Shing, co-founder of Lekker Architects says: “From the initial discussions, we wanted to look at how to democratise design so people feel they can do it too. Our experience caring for my father taught us that dementia is unfortunately a one-way street at the moment. It is decline. It is inevitable. It is constantly changing. There are no design solutions that are generalised enough to help with all the changes to a person with dementia. Although there is equipment such as mattress protectors or spoons for making eating easier, you cannot afford to buy specialised equipment for every stage of the disease. It is more about supporting the person and their unique journey through it.”

Hack CAre

Dr Joshua Comaroff, fellow co-founder of Lekker Architects continues: “On the one hand, we don’t believe that everybody is a designer. Design is really hard. The more you engage with design as research, the more you understand the complexity you are designing for. But we also want to acknowledge the adjacency of design intelligence to a natural human ingenuity. There are certain things that people who have not gone to design school do that are very, very close to how designers solve problems. With this guide, we acknowledge that there are these forms of design and creativity happening organically. As designers, we can draw them out, talk about why they work, and situate them. It is really design at its best: mediating spheres that don’t normally talk to each other.”

Hack Care for living with dementia

Hack Care is modelled after the IKEA catalogue, but it is not confined to IKEA products. The book outlines 10 guiding principles to empower persons with dementia and their caregivers, namely:

  1. Let persons with dementia play an active role.
  2. Encourage decision-making.
  3. Affirm their sense of self.
  4. Have simple conveniences within easy reach.
  5. Familiarity is comforting.
  6. Don’t forget the simple pleasures.
  7. Simplify the environment.
  8. Do things together.
  9. Stay flexible and adaptable.
  10. The caregiver matters.
Hack Care for living with dementia

The PDA Jury has commended the project for its powerful message of normalising dementia – positioning it not as a strictly defeating problem but as a prompt to act, adapt, and create a better experience of daily life through ‘hacking’.

Click here to find out more about Hack Care and to download the book.

Go to the President*s Design Award webpage to see the full list of winners

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