26.3.24. Q&A Claire Brophy on games for people living with dementia

In 2023, QUT Design Lab provided small seed grants to researchers. One of two recipients, Transdisciplinary Design Lecturer, Dr Claire Brophy, is developing Memory Mosaics, a story-based card game for engaging people living with dementia. This project examined the role of game play in sharing stories and memories. In this Q&A, Claire provides insight into the research team’s approach, inspiration and achievements.

What was the project including research team?

Memory Mosaics is a gentle game for families, carers, and people with dementia. The design is based on a notion that memories are personal yet communal, often recalled most vividly through collaborative efforts.

This project taps into the growing interest in meaningful play and analog game design for health and well-being. It addresses the challenging issues families face when a member is diagnosed with dementia and they seek ways to support and preserve their stories.

Specifically, the project explores creating a conversational card game to facilitate the collection of stories from individuals with dementia and making these stories accessible to their families initially, and later to professional caregivers.

The design of Memory Mosaics draws from the team’s expertise in creative playful designs and games that capture stories and experiences. By integrating storytelling, design, and dementia care, we aim to offer a distinctive experience that raises awareness, educates, promotes empathy, and honors the life stories of people living with dementia.

What did you achieve?

We conducted three main activities for our research: desktop research, prototyping, and a design workshop. While we technically achieved our objectives, we haven’t reached the resolution we envisioned … yet.

Our initial literature review aimed to investigate the intersections of dementia, storytelling, and games, while also identifying any existing health-related toolkits or initiatives. Additionally, we held a participatory design workshop with individuals with lived experience in dementia care, including both personal and professional caregivers. These workshops provided valuable insights and allowed us to play-test an initial, low-fidelity prototype for feedback and further concept development.

What learnings/findings can you share?

A beautiful concept that immediately resonated with all of us was fragile stories. Glavind and Mogensen (2022) use the term ‘fragile’ and ‘fragile storytelling’  to explain how people with Alzheimer’s disease can become easily distracted from a topic of conversation.

‘Fragility implies the possibility of breaking or destroying something. Like a crystal glass that risks splintering, if not handled with care. People with Alzheimer’s try to tell their stories, they engage their listener in guessing games, and they at times withdraw, become quiet and fix their gaze elsewhere – and then a bit later they try again, with a new conversation and new stories. In order to accompany people with Alzheimer’s into their lifeworld and grasp their shifting modes of being, we propose that researchers have to go along with these “fragile stories” and that this means not just being present and listening with patience, but also guessing, filling in, and helping the story come into being’.

What next?

Our design workshop has sparked opportunities for ongoing and emerging collaborations. Following keen interest from participants, we have extended our ethics approval to enable continued development and testing of the game. Our next objective is to explore funding opportunities and progress towards creating a high-fidelity prototype for further play-testing.

Additionally, to extend the support of meaningful engagement for people with dementia and those that care for them, we are beginning to explore how design-led approaches, coupled with personal narratives and memories, could be integrated into supplementary resources such as training materials and activities.

Research Team

Chief Investigator: Dr Claire Brophy
Investigators: Dr Jane Turner, Dr Abbe Winter, Dr Nicole Vickery
Researchers:  Dr Linda Carroli, Hannah Ford Morgan


Glavind, I. M. L., & Mogensen, H. O. (2022). Fragile storytelling: Methodological considerations when conducting ethnographic fieldwork among people with Alzheimer’s disease. SSM. Qualitative Research in Health, 2, 100103-. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ssmqr.2022.100103

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