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Work in Progress: Thom van Os

In Eindhoven Design District, there is always plenty of work in progress. In this edition of 'Work in progress', we talk to Fontys student Thom van Os about design-based learning. He is currently working on the For Dementia project with 80 international students. Their goal is to improve the care of people with dementia. "I now understand how my grandfather feels."

How did this project come about?

All of us are pursuing a minor at Pulsed. That's Fontys' training institute for design-based learning. Within this minor, we created the project For Dementia.

Which minor are you doing?

The minor is called Embrace Tec, which stands for technology, entrepreneurship and creativity. My fellow students have different backgrounds, from communications to nursing. I am studying engineering physics.

What happens when engineering physics and dementia come together?

Actually, I'm doing things right now that are entirely outside my field of studies. I'm working on awareness. How can we connect our ideas to the right people and organizations? I realize that I really enjoy the social aspect.

For Dementia - Work in progress
For Dementia - Work in progress

Can you tell us more about the project?

The overarching goal is to improve the care of people with dementia. For example, it's about how to continue making choices for yourself as a person with dementia or the stigma attached to the disease.

And you came up with a self-watering plant system?

That is indeed the result of one of the teams, a real tech-driven solution. Other students, for example, are developing a care package, a set of tools for friends and family members. With helpful stickers for pointing something out.

So is speech a problem in dementia?

Yes, people often have difficulty speaking. But also with actions that require multiple steps. Even something as simple as loading the dishwasher. My grandfather also has dementia. I now understand better how his world works.

What exactly is design-based learning?

It means entering into open partnerships with people from different disciplines. The outcome of our project wasn't fixed beforehand. You develop an entrepreneurial and inquisitive attitude. What do people with dementia and their loved ones really face?

What have you learned about them?

That we tend to exclude people with dementia from our world. We also talked a lot about this with Teun Toebes. As a nursing student, he experienced what life with dementia can be like by living in the closed ward of a nursing home.

How can Eindhoven help you?

We now want to test our ideas in practice and we could certainly use some help with that! If you work in a care facility for people with dementia, we would love to get in touch.

Do you have tips, suggestions or do you want to collaborate with Thom?

A description of all projects and contact details are on the For Dementia website.