Selected Projects / Vancouver Coastal Health: Zeitgeist — A Storytelling Project With Residents and Student Designers

In Spring 2018, residents in a long-term care facility came together with a class of undergraduate communication design students at Emily Carr University, to co-design and co-write a mini publication series featuring resident stories.

Through our project, small teams of 2-3 students were paired with 1-3 residents, to create a mini-publication over the course of 6 visits with each other. The purpose of the Zeitgeist project is to create a platform for meaningful exchange and social interaction between students, residents, their families and care home staff through both the design process and the final design outcomes. This project gives voice to residents, providing an opportunity for creative and emotional expression, stimulation of positive memories and the engagement of residents in a unique and meaningful activity. Simultaneously this project offers design students learning opportunities in storytelling, publication design, co-design and participatory design research.

This project was inspired by the Zeitgeist Kollektiv, a public editorial design and storytelling project within a care home system in Zurich, led by the designers Carolyn Kerchof and Martina. Our goal through this research and design project is to  explore what a local model and publication might look like here in Vancouver.  In particular, we are interested in how this project might help to address some of the unmet needs of residents identified in the 2017 Residential Care Survey from the Office of the Seniors Advocate BC. These include the need to provide BC seniors with more opportunities to engage in meaningful activities, explore new skills/interests, connect with people to do activities with, and be asked for help and advice (

We are currently in the process of completing a preliminary pilot phase of this project with residents and staff at Purdy Pavillion, a Vancouver Coastal Health facility. Through this project we have seen great success in terms of engagement of residents and interaction with students. Based on this pilot project, we would like to continue further exploration of this model, and conduct a research study to uncover the benefits of this approach for resident quality of life, as well as student learning outcomes. Six additional care homes have already expressed interest in being involved in future stages of this project.


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