Employing Interdisciplinary Approaches in Designing with Fragile Older Adults; Advancing ABLE for Arts-Based Rehabilitative Play and Complex Learning
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ABLE is a gesture-based interactive platform that transforms physical therapy into game play and art creation – movement creates a virtual painting, digital music creation or engages users in game play with others. ABLE offers a menu of scalable physical therapy exercises designed to enhance strength, balance, and agility for variable populations with frailty and dementia presenting with low to severe impairments. It is designed for older adults with dementia and fragility, aiming to harness the incentivizing ability of art and gaming to encourage playful, physical interactions. The project aims to establish synergy between physical interaction and creative engagement to reduce boredom, agitation and social isolation while enhancing physiological, affective and cognitive health. This paper reviews how our interdisciplinary team of software engineers, medical scientists and artist/designers work to adapt design thinking in this research, to create participatory roles for older adults and caregivers that take into account the limits to participation posed by various barriers and their differing interests and investment in participation. We discuss how participant feedback can be integrated into the software interface, app design and user experience to meet the diverse and variable needs of users, for both independent use and supported use in residence. As well, to meet the diverse needs of this complex population, we draw on HCI gaming research as well as neuroplasticity research to formulate interaction experiences that seek to teach learning that can translate across the physical, cognitive and affective needs of this population. In seeking to enhance both pleasure and learning, we speculate that users will engage in sustained use of the platform over time and translate learnings into everyday life, to improve their opportunities to achieve health and wellness objectives. This design approach recognizes the need to incorporate diverse research findings into our approach. It also requires we adjust participatory approaches to accommodate less able-bodied participants, and adopt techniques for integrating participant data into all elements of design work, to ensure a coherent interdisciplinary team approach.