Studio Meineck Ltd – Written evidence (INQ0021)


Evidence: Music Memory Box – A Technological Tool for Quality of Life with Dementia


Submitted By: Chloe Meineck, Director


  1. Answer for Question 6: What technologies will be needed to help people live independently for longer, with better health and wellbeing?


1.1.          Studio Meineck have created a physical and digital tool for people living with dementia. To improve wellbeing and independence right into the later stages of dementia. This tool, Music Memory Box enables people to create new memories and brings people together who may be facing social isolation or difficulty communicating and connecting.


1.2.          The Music Memory Box has already been acknowledged as a Finalist in the National Dementia Care Awards UK in the Most Innovative Product Category and Finalist in BT’s National Tech 4 Good Awards 2019 in the Aging Society category. We’ve spoken internationally at dementia conferences in Japan, and a panel talk at SXSW: Interactive 2015. Chloe was Designer in Residence at the Design Museum where she started developing Music Memory Box. The Music Memory Box was kickstarted in 2019, where 236 people internationally funded the manufacture of the first run.


1.3.          Based on innovative practices – music therapy, life story work and reminiscence therapy – Music Memory Box wraps them up into one product so that they complement each other and create better results for the person living with dementia, as well as their loved ones or carers. Using the simple technology of RFID sensor stickers (like that that enables contactless payments) Music Memory Box allows people to match songs to objects and keep them all in one special place along with photos of themselves and their family as they are now, to also help with recognition. The multi-sensory experience of placing an object, like a model palm tree for example, in the centre of the box and hearing a song about a country you used to live in creates powerful moments of connection for people living with dementia and their loved ones.


1.4.          There is evidence from scientific studies that listening to music lights up the brain in areas connected to memory and wellbeing, and that songs that relating to a specific moment in someone’s life are the most effective. By that nature they are completely individual. Music Memory Box embraces this by providing standard kit that’s then customised by the box user and their family, loved ones or carers. Gathering the stories, objects, photos and music is a valuable social activity in itself. In our pilot grandchildren even made some of the objects for their grandparent living with dementia based on stories from moments in their lives.


1.5.          Whilst curating a playlist of songs brings up similar topics, the expansion to multiple senses through objects and photographs gives multiple routes for the carer into different memory triggers. We also provide a guide to this life story work as part of the initial set up of the box so family members or carers who are unsure how to start or which questions to ask can be informed by our knowledge, as guided by professionals, academics and previous users. This element of customisation does not assume that every person living with dementia has the same taste, or experiences. We specifically worked with the large community of Carribean older people in our pilot through Bristol Black Carers, to show that anyone can use and benefit from Music Memory Box.


1.6.          It has been shown to contribute heavily to the idea of ‘health span’ for people at every stage of dementia - from initial diagnosis right into the later stages. The controls are designed so that the front of the box clearly shows that it plays music (speaker, LED light to show when it’s on) and only gives the basic controls needed (volume, headphone jack) and all the set up controls are hidden away on the back (USB for uploading music, buttons for cycling through songs). The controls to match music to objects also work in exactly the same way as the set up box does. Plus, minus and shut down swipe cards come with the box and are placed in the centre of the box to carry out the action - along with a voice instruction at every stage. The box tells you when it’s on, when you can add or take away music, when it’s uploaded music or finished and when it’s shutting down. The whole process is guided and as intuitive as possible.


1.7.          The aim is to use technology in an accessible way, to take out the confusion or fear and use it to make life simpler for the user, giving them independence back to listen to their music as and when they want. Placing the technology firmly in the ‘real world’ where it enables ethereal music files to match with physical objects makes the tactile nature of memories real. The physical box itself has presence and many of the pilot users kept other special objects in their boxes as it became a treasure trove of happiness for them. It’s a point of focus for joy, conversation and sharing memories with others; enabling even the less confident or sociable people to interact around a point of focus.


1.8.          One daughter said: "All the clocks, all the dementia products Mum didn't take any notice but this Music Memory Box it's like magic - it has completely changed everything. She comes alive in an instant. In the whole experience of dementia, working with people with dementia, my Mum with dementia - this is the best tool ever"


1.9.          A Lead Activity Coordinator of a Care Home said, ''There's a huge relationship building, it's great for communication, and to see how people are lit up or moved to a really deep sense... people have been really taken to another place and another level of experience. So I would say they are absolutely brilliant and a really good experience.”


  1. Answer for Question 7: How can technology be used to improve mental health and reduce loneliness for older people?


2.1.          There are currently 850,000 people in the UK living with dementia and that’s expected to increase over 1 million by 2025. This is a growing challenge that an increasing older population will face, and it can be a massively isolating diagnosis for a lot of people. One of the key aspects of dementia is loss of identity which can make it harder to connect with other people, or forget already established relationships. The Music Memory Box is an innovative tool that focuses on reminiscence therapy and the effect of specific music and objects for specific people to trigger memories, it has been proven to reduce social isolation and improve wellbeing for people living with dementia.


2.2.          Through our pilot we placed 28 boxes with individuals in care homes and living independently and them and their families reported improved communication, less frustration and improved sense of identity. Feedback reported improved communication, wellbeing, quality of life, sense of independence and identity for people living with dementia who used one of the boxes. As well as reduced confusion, anxiety and frustration for carers as well. They also reported greater quality of conversations, better connections and more enjoyment from visiting their loved one.



2.3.          Products and services should be designed with all backgrounds in mind, including the most isolated groups, e.g. People from BME backgrounds living with dementia. Currently services and tools are not, we hope to change this with the use of Music Memory Box.


2.4.          A case study from one care home was one resident, John, who didn’t interact much and didn’t have any family locally who visited, completely opened up after the introduction of Music Memory Box. It turned out he’d worked in broadcasting, as had his father, and he started making setlists for other residents as well as sharing the music in his box.


2.5.          In the care homes where residents used Music Memory Boxes care staff reported more frequent visits from their families, and for residents without family it became a point of conversation. It’s an activity that people can share, tell stories about their life or simply play a song that someone else might have a connection too. It’s all about reawakening those memories and reconnecting people living with dementia to their memories, their loved ones and their environment.


  1. Answer for Question 8: What are the barriers to the development and implementation of these various technologies (considered in questions 5-7)?


3.1.          Music Memory Box has been in development by independent designer Chloe Meineck for six years to this point and is only just being put into production. The barriers that have prevented quicker development have been:


3.2.          Funding - whilst prototype funding is possible, the funding beyond this to pilot the boxes in care homes was unforthcoming and instead came from private social investors. We have also run a Kickstarter to gain initial funds for manufacture, as well as taking out a low interest social loan. Not ideal for a company in its early stages trying to innovate and be sustainable


3.3.          Partnerships - making connections in care homes where the most benefit could be made with Music Memory Box has been on luck, there’s not a clear entry route to the sector or easy platforms for innovation so that early adopters can share best practice. This is also where more low-income people living with dementia could have a chance to use the box and get the benefits so it’s a key priority for us.


3.4.          Manufacturing - finding UK manufacturing advice has been difficult, mostly done on word of mouth and whilst securing support from SWMAS has been helpful, manufacturers themselves don’t offer a level of transparency for new comers. There’s also a lack of support for innovation, making something that’s never been made before and co-ordinating between suppliers (of tech and the physical outer box for example) can be time consuming.


3.5.          These barriers are common amongst designers creating tools that are considered more ‘niche’ but have potential to improve lives. Our aim to get a Music Memory Box to every person who needs one but the challenges to doing so have delayed our manufacture and not allowed us to reach a more widely accessible price point. We’re currently on schedule to reach the market in February 2020.


  1. Addendum


4.1.            Studio Meineck is a social design studio based in Bristol at Pervasive Media Studio. Founded by Chloe Meineck to create products that fulfill particular societal needs for the full life cycle. Using a model of co-design with stakeholders from academia, charities and users themselves; to create innovative transformative products using digital and physical elements. Music Memory Box is the first product in the pipeline that includes trove, for looked after and adopted children and a mental health tool for men.


17 September 2019