When someone sets a table with silverware created by San Francisco designer Sha Yao, it looks a little bit like a lunchtime tea party for children, down to the very last curved red spoon and yellow plastic mug with its bright blue, curved, rubbery handle.
But the table isn’t for preschoolers — it’s for adults. Specifically, it’s a table set with kitchen utensils from the line Eatwell, which was designed specifically for elderly adults with cognitive impairments such as dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Yao began designing the tableware, AOL and Fast Company report, after her grandmother developed Alzheimer’s. Yao saw something that family members of Alzheimer’s patients see every day: three times a day, at every meal, her grandmother struggled to eat a healthy meal — even when she didn’t realize that she wasn’t eating as she used to.
Yao designed Eatwell tableware with a keen eye toward bright colors and ergonomics that optimize nutrition for those with neurodegenerative diseases and conditions.
Eatwell tableware is based on data from a Boston University study, a recent Bustle article explained, which found that people with dementia tend to eat 24% more food and drink 84% more liquids when the food and drink is served in brightly-colored dishes. Yao also designed bowls and plates with bright blue interiors, since very few foods are blue and therefore are less likely to blend into the dishes.
The bowls are designed to have slanted bottoms, with one end higher than the other, causing the food to collect at one end without lifting the bowl; Yao purposely designed the bowls this way after noticing that many Alzheimer’s patients have a hard time with coordination, making it a difficult task to lift a bowl, scoop the food with a spoon, bend down slightly to eat the food, and all while keeping a firm grasp on every piece of tableware.
Eatwell spoons are designed to fit perfectly with the bowls — and they’re available in right-hand and left-hand versions — and are also equipped with thick rubber handles that make it easy to grip the spoon while eating. The cups and mugs are designed with a similar anti-slip concept as well, and mug handles are curved in a way that prevents a full mug from tipping over.
The entire Eatwell collection has only 20 pieces, Fast Company stated, but the pieces are customized down to the last detail.
The issue at hand is far bigger than creating interesting tableware, Yao explained. As elderly people are living longer, cognitive problems like Alzheimer’s and dementia make it more difficult to maintain a sense of dignity while performing the most basic daily tasks.
Even when elderly people are well-cared for in assisted living or nursing homes, ensuring that they actually eat their meals isn’t always the easiest task. For caretakers and family members, the idea of mealtime can become a burden.
“One of the most challenging problems for dementia and Alzheimer’s patients is getting adequate nutrition; this is also common as we age,” says Greg Stinson, President/CEO, Comfort Keepers of Savannah. “Having utensils that make eating easier is a huge step in getting the proper nutrition in these patients’ lives.”