What We Talk About When We Talk About Death

What We Talk About When We Talk About Death

A preview of the inaugural Let's Re:Imagine End of Life event
Shoshana Berger
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No one knows when it will happen. Could be 30 years. Could be next week. What we do know is that we are all dying. And that how we die—perhaps the most important event human beings share—is something we never talk about.

That's starting to change. With 76 million Baby Boomers gazing down that long, winding road, aid-in-dying laws gaining ground (California's passed in June of this year), and an epic list of recent bestselling books on the topic, many written by doctors, death is having a moment.

Which led us to ask: How can design play a role?

To find out, we teamed up with local hospital network Sutter Health, the Helix Centre in London, and the Ungerleider Palliative Care Education Fund to launch OpenIDEO’s End of Life Challenge. Thousands of people around the world participated, submitting ideas for tools, services, and platforms that might improve the way we prepare for and navigate the end of life.

Some incredible ideas came across the transom. Imagine the relief of a soundscape that cancels out the maddening noise of bleeping machines in hospitals, or a digital platform that provides respite vouchers for family caregivers who desperately need a break.

Struck by the volume of ideas the challenge generated, we wanted to make sure the momentum didn't end there. A team formed to send out a call to a loose network of healthcare professionals, designers, artists, storytellers, organizations, and individuals to see if it made sense to join forces and build a public event.

Re:Imagine End of Life kicks off Monday evening, October 24th, 2016, and runs through the week in San Francisco. With multiple events every night in San Francisco and the East Bay, there are plenty of opportunities to join the conversation.

Tonight (10/24), at Grace Cathedral, Dr. BJ Miller, Dana Cho, and I will lead a workshop on how design can play a role in the way we die. OpenIDEO Challenge participants Brad Wolfe, Ken Rosenfeld, and Yoko K will share the ideas they are developing.

Other highlights include:

Want to know more? The event's organizers can be reached at hello@letsreimagine.org.

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Shoshana Berger
Shoshana tells stories about IDEO's work with the world's most forward-thinking organizations.
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