"There's community on a bus..."

I was lucky enough to be a guest at a Dementia Circle gathering yesterday. Hosted in the Alzheimer Scotland Resource Centre in Ayr, Dementia Circle is coordinated by designer Jeni Lennox and aims to 'find, test and share everyday products that can help people with Dementia stay independent for longer in their own homes.' The group considers products together, discusses why they might be helpful, recommends other products and generally acts as a great local resource for practical ideas and advice.

Jeni kindly said that we could use one of the meetings to talk about travel and transport and what a great session we had. Two groups, many insights, lovely conversation and a lot of laughter. I had a coffee in the specially-commissioned Dementia Circle two-handled mug (much more steady to use, easier to pass to others with hot drinks in)

We drew our journeys to the Resource Centre, discussed the highs and lows and collected some thoughts on what's good and what could be better.

The chat was fascinating - here are just a few of the talking points:

Someone had walked to the Centre but, on reflection, hadn't spoken to anyone on the way. "Everyone was in their car". We talked about how some transport can be a social space - "there's community on a bus"

Much of the local travel is by bus - people felt more 'visible' on a bus. We have to interact with the driver getting on and off and there's a feeling of safety about this. Trains feel a little more anonymous...

Arriving at and leaving bus stops is a common problem - buses pulling away when people are still finding their seat... and why does there always seem to be a big puddle to step into when getting off the bus?!

Bookable services such as MyBus are good although sometimes there's a wait because of demand. 

Yes, concessionary and assistance cards are good, but there are a growing number - can't we just combine them in some way?

Those electronic buttons on trains that open and close doors - they can sometimes be confusing. And is the toilet door really locked? Really?!

We also talked about buses that unexpectedly take different routes, the uncertainty of the rules of using 'blue badges' to park and the anxiety that can be caused by waiting for a bus, now knowing when it will arrive.  

A big theme was uncertainty and the comfort of familiarity. Journeys can be filled with unexpected events and confusing information. We talked a little about timetables - some use the 12 hour clock, some the 24 hour clock. Live bus information that isn't quite as 'live' as we thought...

To finish off the session we did a little prototyping. A few weeks ago in Haddington we had talked about the confusion around tickets and somebody had wondered... Imagine if the outward and return tickets were colour coded. Wouldn't that make things easier?  So, we created some different coloured 'tickets' to explore the idea...

...and the general feeling was yes, it could help. In fact it could help everyone!  And what if we could choose other aspects of what our tickets looked like? Could we choose symbols or pictures that mean something to us? 

I was pondering this just as I headed through Ayr station to catch the train home - but the barrier thing wouldn't open. I'd put the wrong ticket in.