Selected Projects / Vancouver Coastal Health — Zeitgeist Program + Research Study

Zeitgeist Program + Research Study— A Storytelling Project With Residents and Student Designers

Recent reports have shown that individuals living in long-term care homes would benefit from more opportunities to engage in meaningful activities. However, within our current model of care, these individuals have limited opportunities to participate in such activities, or have one-on-one leisure time with staff. 

Inspired by the Zeitgeist Kollektiv, we created Emily Carr Zeitgeist  — an iteration of the original Zeitgeist program which embeds storytelling, intergenerational exchange and publication design within a university course term-project.


Zeitgeist Program

Over the course of six visits to a local care home, small teams of design students are paired with 1-3 residents to co-design and co-write a publications featuring residents’ personal stories. This format provides an opportunity for our design students to get out of the classroom and test their design skills in the real world, while also providing meaningfully activities for residents to engage in:

  • Session one: A getting to know you activity led by the care home, to allow residents and students to get acquainted.
  • Session two: A reciprocal getting to know you activity led by communication design students.
  • Session three: Initial content gathering activity, led by students
  • Session four: Secondary content gathering session, led by students
  • Session five: Content review and final text edits, with residents
  • Session six: Final reveal

In Spring 2018, we piloted the Zeitgeist program in a 3rd year communication design course at Emily Carr University. Since then, we have run the program 2 more times, in 2 local care homes, engaging 50+ design students, and 40+ residents. 

For a session-to-session recap, from Fall 2018 see our Zeitgeist Journal Entries


Zeitgeist Program Research Study

Over the 2018/19 school terms, we conducting a research study on the Zeitgeist Program to assess the impact of the Zeitgeist program on residents’ wellbeing, staff’s capacity to provide care, as well as students’ learning. This was done through mid-/post-program interviews, student pre-/post-program surveys, and observations of residents’ well-being during the program sessions. 

The core themes from our research findings have been the importance of building connections and trans-generational exchange, as well as the value of storytelling — areas that have benefits to students and residents, and mutual benefits; care home residents are provided with the opportunity to make meaningful and therapeutic connections and design students have the opportunity to build real-world experience in a ‘client’ setting, through knowledge and experience sharing.


Next Steps: Fostering new connections between academic post-secondary institutions and care homes.

We are in the process of developing a Zeitgeist Program How-to-Guide. The objective of the guide is to provide the community with the resources necessary to implement the Zeitgeist program in their own settings.

How-to-Guide link: Coming soon!


Project Leads: Jon Hannan, Caylee Raber

Design Students: Students from Jon Hannan’s 3rd year communication design course

Research Assistants: Srushti Kulkarni (ECU), Amen Salami (ECU), Garima Sood (ECU), Mariko Sakamoto (UBC) , Paulina Malcolm (UBC).

Project Coordinator: Nadia Beyzaei

Partners: Alison Phinney (School of Nursing, UBC), Donna Levi (Recreation Therapist, VCH), Kristina Van der Zwan (Recreation Therapist, VCH).

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