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A game that connects generations. Totems designed by Magdalena Bojko-Michalak

29 of January '21

{Having observed her five-year-old niece' s relationship with her grandmother, she decided to create a game that would help them spend time together. This is how Totems was created - a wooden game with a simple design, which aims to activate the elderly and integrate the generations.

Totems is a game aimed at activating the elderly and intergenerational integration. It consists of blocks created for children - spatial forms that encourage constructional exploration and stimulate eye-hand movement - and a universal game for seniors. This part consists of a board and 25 pawns, designed for daily mental exercises as well as social gatherings.

Część gry
przeznaczona dla dzieci Część gry przeznaczona dla

Totems is a multi-level game - it consists of two basic elements, each corresponding to a particular age group

© Magdalena Bojko-Michalak

simple design, many possibilities

The wood used by the author stimulates the sense of touch, teaches children to get to know the structure and temperature of the material, and in older people evokes positive emotions associated with memories of old toys from childhood. The graphic division of balls and blocks stimulates abstract thinking, and allows the creation of many combinations of games.

Thestrong contrast between wood and black color was used with the visual dysfunctions of the elderly in mind. The highlight of the design is the moment of joining the two elements described above. In such a situation, every part of the game is used, so that together - children and seniors, can create the title totems. This entertainment is multi-level, and the way of playing depends on the competence of the participants. It can be a cooperative game, the goal of which will be to put together the highest possible construction. It can also be a game focused on competition - who will arrange the highest totem? Who will be the last to get rid of the elements? The most important thing, however, is to have fun together and intergenerational integration.

Totemy gra dla wielu

the most important point of the game is to have fun together

© Magdalena Bojko-Michalak

a game for everyone

Such entertainment is supposed to awaken the inner child in adults, allow them to get rid of barriers and participate in the wonderful world of children's imagination. For this, the child, while playing together, can draw knowledge from the adult, as well as build, so important for him, a relationship with grandparents, - adds the author of the game.

The game is also expected to have a positive impact on the mental development of children and the maintenance of the intellectual fitness of the elderly. Totems require focus, dexterity and strategy. Thus, they engage the mind to think logically and activate small motor skills.

Totemy, elementy gry

instructions and game elements

© Magdalena Bojko-Michalak

Dobrawa Bies: What inspired you while creating Totems?

Magdalena Bojko-Michalak: I am lucky to be a participant in the life of my four-generation family. Observing the relationships and behaviors of those closest to me inspires me. During the gatherings of my five-year-old niece and eighty-year-old grandmother, I noticed that they were missing something that would cause interaction between them, an encouragement to play and integrate together. I also observed that my grandmother found it difficult to solve crossword puzzles and puzzles brought to her apartment by her five-year-old. The dizzying pace of my niece's development and my grandmother's advancing dementia led me to reflect that what the youngest in the family acquires, the oldest inexorably loses. The search for a common activity for preschool children and the elderly that would positively influence the development and intellectual condition of both groups became the main idea of the project.

Gra dla seniorów

the course of the game

© Magdalena Bojko-Michalak

Dobrawa: What was the game made of and how did the choice of materials affect its appearance?

Magdalena: Except for the playing cards, all elements are made of beech wood. One of the objectives of the project was that the game should work on different senses - sight, touch, hearing. Wood is a very pleasant material, it has its warmth, gives off a specific smell, and is heavy. All its properties make playing with it an interesting experience. In addition, sensory stimulation is good for brain development, learning ability, memory, and inhibits dementia and progressive dementia diseases in seniors. I also cared about the metaphorical and emotional meaning. Wood is a noble material, and as a designer, I should use it with respect, with the idea that the product made from it will last a long time. I would like Totems to be a game that not only integrates generations, but also remembers each of them like my grandfather's chess pieces. Such items become an heirloom, a good memory that we can pass down from generation to generation.

Plansza i klocki Konstrukcja planszy

The game for seniors consists of a board and 25 balls

© Magdalena Bojko-Michalak

Dobrawa: How is the game played and what benefits do users get from it?

Magdalena: Totems is a multi-level game. It consists of two basic elements, each corresponding to a particular age group. The first is blocks. Created for children to develop their imagination, stimulate eye-hand movement and teach logical thinking. All elements are constructed from two shapes, so that the block becomes spatial, but still remains an open form, encouraging constructional exploration. Graphic activity further stimulates abstract thinking. The wood used in the design stimulates the sense of touch, teaching the child to learn about the structure and temperature of the material. The second element is a game for seniors. It consists of a board and 25 pawns, which are wooden balls. The game is universal, designed for daily mental exercises, as well as for social gatherings. The graphic division of the balls alludes to the characteristics of the blocks, and allows to create many combinations of games. The moment of joining the two parts - those for children and the older ones is the most important point of the game, then the title Totems are created, and the participants integrate.

Karty Totemów

examples of totems

© Magdalena Bojko-Michalak

Dobrawa: Do you think good design can help change lives and connect generations?

Magdalena: I think the goal of a good designer and a good designer is to create and solve problems affecting every sphere of life in our society. Good design should be accessible to every age group, taking into account their needs, and contribute to improving living conditions. These are not always spectacular designs, it is enough to increase the typeface on the bus timetable to make a fraction of everyday life easier for every senior citizen and senior woman. In my case, it was working out a problem concerning the functioning of our society. Intergenerational disintegration, the increasing loneliness of the elderly are the consequences of our progress in civilization. The migration of working-age people to larger cities in Poland and abroad, the move away from family-centric lifestyles and the focus on education and career, is not conducive to closer family relationships. In addition, so much technological progress excludes those who cannot keep up with it. This also exacerbates intergenerational divisions.

Gra łączy pokolenia

Having fun together for the whole family

© Magdalena Bojko-Michalak

In order for the vision of an "aging society" not to frighten, we need a radical change regarding the perception of seniors in society. Considering them as a group that is equally deserving of "good design". Each generation must open up to listening and learning from each other, ensure integration and find common passions and interests. Dialogue between generations will give harmony in the community, and degrade hurtful and stigmatizing age stereotypes. I believe that involving the elderly in community participation and working with the youngest would have a positive impact on their health. My project is, like the increased typeface at the bus stop, only a fraction of the answer to the dysfunctions of our society, but it is intended to draw attention to an existing problem. It is a seed that I hope other designers will want to develop.

Staying in the thread of the aging society, we recommend an article about a senior citizen housing development project in Rabat.

Dobrawa Bies

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