People with dementia are calmed by human skin wall

skin shapes for people with Dementia
Photo credit: Rogier van Son/Studio040

More than 200 students will show their graduation work for the Design Academy in Eindhoven during the Dutch Design Week. One of them is Eindhoven’s Patty van den Elshout (25). She made a tactile wall with soft, round, skin-coloured parts. Patty’s goal is for people to calm down with her sensory wall.

“Children discover the world by feeling. People with dementia can only touch at the end. The touch sends a signal to your brain so that you calm down. It’s a distraction from the rest of the world. You can just feel and only think about what you touch”.

Cerebral infarction

“My father had a cerebral infarction. I also started with him. He felt it. It is very nice for him to experience peace”, she says. “It was an intense period. He could no longer read and he could not eat with a knife and fork either. In the rehabilitation centre, a whole team of people helped him: from cognitive therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists to a sports team. I was allowed to watch the conversations that they had with him. I could also ask questions”.

Patty’s father had difficulty processing stimuli. “I heard that touch can be a useful tool. I then started doing further research into cerebral infarctions and people with dementia. My father was the inspiration. It started with him and from there it grew into what it is today.”


Before developing the wall, Patty spoke with the rehabilitation centre’s therapists. “They indicated which shapes I should use. They also knew how hard the material had to be to make it pleasant to the touch. The round shapes have different sizes. Some are a little harder, some a little softer”.

Patty also wanted it to resemble human shapes. “They give more of a feeling that you want to touch it. During the corona period we were not allowed to touch anything. It is important to bring touch back”.


Visitors to the Dutch Design Week have varied reactions. Some people feel uncomfortable. “It feels like you’re touching a disease”, one young man says. “It feels pimpled. I want to keep touching it but then again I don’t. It’s a strange feeling”. A woman: “It looks like I’m touching someone. I have to get used to it”.

“They look like breast implants”, Froukje Jonkman, who has just been feeling around, says. According to her, Patty could have gone further. “It’s a shame it’s a bit cold. And I find it very rubbery. The outer layer could be softer. But it is exciting. There are all kinds of shapes that you can feel and I really like that. It is a kind of adventure for someone who is feeling this”.


Raffaela Vandermuhlen of the Design Academy says more and more students are focusing on health, including mental health. According to her, the show with graduation projects is of great importance. “This is the moment when we invite the world to come to Eindhoven. Then they can come here and see what our designers are capable of”.

“Big brands come here to see what is happening in the design world. You can connect the graduates with the business community. We expect a group from America, from Nike. They will look for talents. They see if there are designers who can add something to their company”.

Source: Studio040

Translated by: Bob


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