Launched in 2011, Living Well with Dementia was a Design Challenge run in partnership with the Department of Health to improve the lives of those affected by dementia. One of the five innovative solutions created through the challenge, Ode is a fragrance-release system designed to stimulate appetite among people with dementia.

The problem

Weight loss is common to most people with late-stage dementia and can be an early indicator of the condition’s onset. Malnutrition costs the NHS around £13 billion a year, compared to £5.1 billion for obesity.

The solution

Ode releases three food fragrances a day, adjustable to coincide with the user’s mealtimes. This discreet system is less stigmatising and more inspiring than an alarm or constant reminders from carers to eat. Research suggests it can stimulate real hunger subliminally.

Pleasant and evocative, the scents aim to improve mood as an additional effect. They have been developed specially for Ode, in conjunction with a leading fragrance laboratory and in response to workshop feedback. Users can choose their preferred scents at installation.

Fragrances are released in short sharp bursts, acting as a strong appetite trigger and then dissipating rapidly so users won’t become inured to the effect. A subtle light indicates the device is working and also communicates when fragrances need refilling.

The fragrance system can easily be expanded with new Ode lines – either additional food aromas or new scents to support relaxation, alertness or reminiscence therapy.

The results

  • 52% of participants in a trial gained weight after Ode was installed.
  • Ode is now a limited company selling in the UK, Norway and the Netherlands.
  • The product has attracted media coverage and generated interest from care homes, community NHS dieticians, commissioners and home carers.

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