Eatwell: enjoyment in spite of Alzheimer's

Design Health

18 February 2016

Eatwell: enjoyment in spite of Alzheimer's

In the USA a design student developed a line of eating utensils, adapted to the demands of those who suffer from neurodegenerative diseases, with cognitive impairment and behaviour disorders.  Including special spoons and plates, she created utensils to help overcome everyday obstacles so as to make meal times a more pleasurable experience.

Spilt drinks, spoons that are too small, food that falls off the plate ... Shao Yao, a North American design student saw the difficulties that her grandmother Ada faced when it came to eating.  She was surprised and wanted to do something.  Observations in senior care centers and hospitals helped her in undertaking a project that gives quality of life to those with Alzheimer's or other neurodegenerative diseases.

Eatwell is a tableware set of plates, spoons and mugs designed to overcome everyday obstacles so as to make meals more pleasurable.  Spill-resistant mugs; the slanted basin plates makes it easier to gather food with the spoon, which in turn is designed to match the curvature of the bowl, so not even a grain of rice gets left behind.

What began as an academic project, as part of the Design Master which Yao studied in the Academy of Art University, ended up helping this young student to launch a crowdfunding campaign in December 2014 and a commercial product.

Yao not only took the aesthetic appearance into consideration, but she went much further.  She based her creation on a study by the University of Boston which affirmed that when bright coloured dishes were used, patients with cognitive disorders increased their food intake by 24% and consumed 84% more liquids.  For this reason she proposed two series of products: one in which yellow predominated, recommended for solid food and another where red predominated, as recommended for soups and liquids. All are made with materials that are safe for the microwave.

After one year, she collected the necessary funding and won first prize in the Stanford Design Challenge, in 2014. According to their Facebook page, where you can follow the project's progress, the final tests are being done to send sets to those who bought them in advance.