Learning 15 Nov 2019

Project Dignity: Preserving Dignity and Autonomy for the Elderly

By CIS Communications
Photograph by CIS Communications

Maintaining dignity and autonomy is something we often take for granted, but it can be a challenge for the elderly. Even something as simple as a clothing protector worn during mealtimes can represent a loss of dignity because it looks too “institutionalised”. To boost the morale of the elderly clients at St Luke’s Eldercare, Mr Edwin Lim approached the CIS Design department to help design a set of stylish clothing protectors that his elderly residents would be happy to wear during mealtimes.

Typically our MYP Design projects encourage students to consider a wide range of solutions but any concerns about Mr Lim’s request being too limited in scope were set aside when students visited the eldercare centre. That experience made them realise that what mattered most was to address the real needs of residents. They discovered that the real challenge was changing how the elderly viewed the existing clothing protectors. As an NGO (non-governmental organisation) relying on charitable donations, St Luke’s had limited funds so it was up to our students to come up with creative, budget-friendly solutions.

Students conducted research to understand clothes protectors across a range of markets, with a particular focus on those that were used in hotpot restaurants such as Haidilao. They tested different fabrics to find options that were both water and stain-resistant. Many students had no prior experience working with textiles or using a sewing machine, so the project really pushed them to develop some new skills and understandings.

A challenge of this sort is not unusual in CIS’s MYP (Middle Years Programme) design course. As students progress across grades 7-10, they are encouraged to develop design thinking and to understand how to approach problems from a troubleshooting / exploratory perspective. As their skillset grows, they’ll often take on additional responsibilities. The collaboration with St Luke’s Eldercare Centre was a perfect opportunity to put the skills they’d acquired to practical use.

After the project was completed, students hosted an exhibition and invited Mr Lim to a feedback session. He was happy with what our students had produced, and having seen the products in use was able to offer some constructive product improvement suggestions. St Luke’s residents mealtimes can now be a stylish affair for all to enjoy.