About Us: Bernadette and Melanie

For the first few months, Goose Hollow Studios was a mother-daughter team (Bernadette and Melanie, respectively) with a little computer coding experience and a lot of ideas about helping older folks. For the first few months, Goose Hollow Studios was a mother-daughter team (Bernadette and Melanie, respectively) with a little computer coding experience and a lot of ideas about helping older folks.

We’d noticed that the technology industry wasn’t focused on seniors very much, with the possible exception of medical tech. But what about other areas that might enhance quality of life for seniors?

Our answer: Activities. Activities are stimulating and engaging, and they have the potential to help “exercise” the brain and encourage social interaction. So we started developing activities for iPads, putting our existing tech skills together with something fun. Soon we had not only built several prototypes, but a third member, Miriam, joined the studio, bringing immense passion for helping older folks and experience in implementing art therapy in senior communities.

Believing firmly in participatory design, we took our early prototypes on the road. We watched seniors use our activity prototypes - sometimes smiling, sometimes not. We asked them what they thought - sometimes they said they had fun, sometimes they politely said they didn’t. We learned a lot, and the main thing was that we needed to focus.

We ultimately decided, therefore, to concentrate our efforts on creating activities that enrich the lives of people with dementia. One of the reasons we choose this was because a close family member of the co-founders lived with Alzheimer’s for the last years of her life. One of us (the mother in the mother-daughter team) was her primary caregiver until more intensive memory care became required.

Using the amazing feedback from our first testers and a few experts in dementia care, we went back to the drawing board and built a prototype of a whole new activity system, called Memory Spark. This new activity system is designed to stimulate the brain, jog memories, and spark conversations about those memories. We hope Memory Spark will invigorate the user’s mind and strengthen their social engagement, key elements to a great quality of life for folks living with dementia.

We’re currently still developing Memory Spark, but if you’re interested in staying updated on our progress, just fill out the form on our Contact page.

About Us: Miriam

You know the way some people get super excited about babies or puppies? My heart gets bigger in that same way when I’m around seniors.

At some point in my late teens, early 20’s, I started getting more involved in the lives of the seniors in my family and involving them more in mine. Their personalities would shine and I could see teenage hearts still beating in those old bodies. I noticed at some point that they would say yes to just about any activity - they were just glad to be included, and I became determined to really see them and not just let them molder in the corner.

After I moved away from my hometown, I found I really missed being around that senior energy, so started volunteering at Rose Villa with an art program called Opening Minds through Art (OMA), a program specifically geared towards seniors with Alzheimers and dementia. This experience has been wonderful. The facility and program are fantastic and spending time with OMA seniors and volunteers fills up my heart in surprising ways. I have never been around so many like-minded younger people before. It was wonderful to see that there are lots of other people out there who care about seniors with the same giddy enthusiasm I do!

Melanie and I first met about this project over drinks at Hungry Tiger Too in Portland in the winter of 2018. She and her mom had come up with a cool idea and she’d heard I loved seniors. I am so grateful that our friend Steph introduced us, because Goose Hollow Studios is the next step in the manifestation of my passion and interest, an opportunity to participate in building a new business model around something I love, while surrounding myself with people that inspire me every day. This project has added a wonderful new dimension to the way I’m engaging with seniors by providing an opportunity to build something with them.

We are excited to share Memory Spark with you!

Why Seniors?

Let’s be honest, other than medication management, caregiver scheduling, and safety apps, seniors are an under-served target audience in today’s youth-obsessed tech industry.

To counter this trend, we decided to focus on creating fun and engaging apps for seniors, specifically those living with dementia. We know the brain is malleable and using it keeps it strong. We know there are stories waiting to be shared, memories waiting to be re-lived, and new memories waiting to be made! Memory Spark is a tool that can help tickle out those moments. Goose Hollow Studios is on a mission to give senior tech needs and interests the attention they deserve.

Why participatory design?

At a meeting of a senior-focused group here in Portland, during various discussions about innovation and aging well, one phrase stood out:

Things are too often designed for seniors, not with seniors.

This struck a chord, so we made the critical decision to take a participatory-design approach. This means that we specifically design all of our activities in collaboration with our users: folks living with dementia. And, because of their specific needs, we also work closely with caregivers, as well as memory care professionals and experts.

Rather than patching together what we think would be good for seniors with dementia, we collaborate with them, their caregivers, and memory care professionals on the design from Day 1. This may sound like common sense, but we were surprised at what we’d heard from caregivers and memory care specialists. One group had worked with an app developer that had made the text font so small that folks couldn’t read it - and this wasn’t for a prototype, but a (supposedly) release-ready paid app targeted to the senior market! (I won’t tell you how many millions in Venture Capital investment this particular company had received, but it defies logic.)

We can guarantee that we won’t get things perfect the first time, but we are always working to make things better. Because we are listening to the feedback from users and caregivers and industry professionals and experts, every time a senior with dementia or caregiver tests one of our activity prototypes, it’s a better experience than the previous time. Our goal is not to fast-track the quickest route to multi-million dollar Venture Capital money (though, as a worker-owned co-op, we’re happy to take multi-million dollar investments with no expectation of an equity share… ahem). But for reals, our goal, our mission, is to build something that makes people living with dementia, both the patients and caregivers, feel better, and live better.

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