OCAD Series: Enhanced Dining for Seniors

LUNE by Christine Lieu

enhanced dining for seniors

With an interest in cooking and love for her grandfather, Christine decided to create a product that would enhance and connect the dining experience for frail Chinese seniors, especially those who have suffered from strokes and feel culturally disconnected using traditional Western dinnerware. After observing the troubles that Chinese seniors had while dining in their local senior’s home, Christine took it upon herself to design a set of dining ware that featured a connection to the Chinese culture, raised sides to promote better posture, thermal double layered walls for their delicate hands, a unifying silicone rim to aid scooping and a durable glass ceramic material that could last!

dinnerware for seniors

You will also notice a variation of symbols used on her products, from left to right, the Chinese character representing longevity, chopsticks and tea leaves reflecting culture, the proportionate servings of each food category along with her product logo.

vessel symbols

Christine took some time to speak with Vidafine to share her insights on how this project developed, and her perspectives on design.

Have you always thought about becoming an Industrial Designer?

I wish I could say that I’ve always dreamed of becoming a designer, but I only stumbled across the field of Industrial Design in the last year of high school. After quickly falling in love with the possibilities of design, I was still hesitant on the type of future that it would lead to. My Uncle James was a mentor who gave me that extra push to embark on such a daunting field not knowing what I was really in for. Looking back, I’ve always had a natural tendency or sudden urge to fix things; and Industrial Design or design in general paves the way for the possibility of putting that urge to good use.

Who or what inspired you to create this set of LUNE dinnerware?

My thesis topic was inspired by my own search for cultural connection with my family heritage. In the early stages of coming up with a topic, I looked to my grandfather for insight to discover a gap that I could design for. He later became one of my main inspirations for my thesis. I noticed that he no longer used traditional Chinese dinnerware to eat due to gripping challenges. Observing how age and declining health had such a drastic affect on what he ate and how he ate it, I was curious to see how I could help enhance the eating experience of aging individuals when they became less dexterous than they once were. In visiting elderly homes such as YeeHong Centre for Geriatric care, I further discovered that even Chinese-focused centres were using Western dinnerware and utensils. This was pretty shocking to see, so I was eager to solve the mystery of cultural disconnect during mealtimes for aging individuals.

Who or what drove you to keep the project moving forward?

My main inspiration to start and complete the project was respectively my grandfather. The connection of my topic to food and eating came naturally because cooking was always the topic of discussion between my grandfather and I; since he was the one who taught me the mastering skills of a true chef.
I looked to him for insight on how I could combine Chinese traditions with dinnerware that would also promote healthier eating habits. I further gained insight from seniors at the YeeHong Adult Day Program I visited on a weekly basis. They generously offered feedback throughout my entire design process. The dinnerware set that I ended up creating, was ultimately a representation of how enhancing the dining experience for seniors could create a happier and healthier environment overall.

chinese dining cups

Any obstacles or problems while designing or creating your pieces?

There were many hurdles I had to overcome during product development. One of the most challenging obstacles was figuring out how I could actually produce my designs. I had settled on making the dinnerware in ceramics, yet I was stumped as to how I could create double-layered dishes and produce everything on time! There were so many steps in the production process from lathing models out of plaster to making the actual molds for slip-casting porcelain. There were many endless days and nights spent in the ceramics studio, but I have Angelo Dipetta to thank for all the guidance and support throughout the creation of my dinnerware molds.

In your perspective, what makes a ‘good design’?

Good design is a term that is too often used and misused. However, my own interpretation of ‘good design’ is the idea of a product or service that is well thought out in all aspects. Good design isn’t something that simply looks attractive on the surface. It should be holistic in that its function, form, experience and end of life are considered as part of the design from its conception.

Any tips for ambitious designers out there?

Some fun tips for the brave young designers-to-be:

  • Get plenty of sleep when you can
  • Post-its are your friends
  • There is no such thing as cramming the night before for a project (it doesn’t work the same way as essays and exams)
  • I highly recommend taking a ceramics class. It will teach you new ways of exploring form with a hands-on connection that creates an instant relationship between you the maker and the object.
  • Take the opportunity to start creating a good design network early on
  • Do some design contests if you have the time – the experiences you gain and the people you meet will be priceless

Wow! Thanks Christine for taking the time to speak with us in the midst of your busy schedule. For those who are interested in checking out her project, the Multii and the T.A.G. project, visit the Toronto Pearson International Airport (Terminal 1) where they are all currently on display until November 30th, 2009!

stacked bowls