Like many people, I’ve experienced the sadness of seeing an older relative losing their memory. It’s a strange and painful experience, to see someone you know and love become confused and disorientated—to see them lose their grasp on the world.
It makes you realize how our memories provide us with much of the context and structure for who we are today. The interactions we have with friends and family aren’t static, isolated in time and place. They are ever evolving, informed by what has happened in our shared and personal histories. To lose the context for those interactions must be terrifying.
That’s why I was excited to hear about the BikeAround project—which pairs a stationary bike with Google Street View to give patients a virtual visit to a place from their past—and the way it helps spark memories in people suffering from dementia.
It’s one thing to be shown a photo and to remember the place. It’s quite another to feel that you are visiting a location, and to have that experience trigger memories that you thought had gone. But this is indeed what BikeAround does. We saw numerous people using the device, and each of them was able to travel to a time and place that they clearly hadn’t visited for a long while. Just as importantly, it also allowed these men and women to take control. The elderly, and those with dementia, often lose autonomy and become isolated. But with BikeAround, they were not only free to explore the world—they were also in charge of the journey. They could revisit places they had been to decades before. They were able to take their husband or wife to the church where they were married. And they could show their grandchildren the places of their youth.
Bengt and Laila Ivarsson were so generous in candidly sharing their lives with us, and it was this experience that made working on this project so special. Their love and support for one another in the face of growing difficulty is something that has really stayed with me, and to see the memories BikeAround triggered for Bengt was incredibly moving. I hope you find the Ivarssons’ story as enriching to watch as it was for us to film.
To find out more about the BikeAround project check out: g.co/bikearound
Director: Orlando von Einsiedel
Producers: Harri Grace, Kiana Moore, Sinéad O’Mara
Creative Directors: John Dwight, Greg Rutter
Executive Producers: Adam Mitchenall, Josh Davis
Director of Photography: Franklin Dow
Editor: Emiliano Battista
Composer: Patrick Jonsson
Sound Recordist: Andrew Hewitson
Camera Assistants: Andreea Gruioniu, Jaime Ackroyd,
Assistant Producer: Alice Martineau
Post-Production Manager: Amelia Franklin
Grade: Richard Jephcote, Franklin Dow
DIT: Andy Sackey
Production Companies: Epic Digital & Grain Media