From art project to global social enterprise

The story behind the door


True Doors® is social enterprise founded and run by the Lifelong Inspiration team. True Doors ® decals help improve the lives of people with dementia.

What began as a social art and one- off life story project is now a respected brand adopted from Tasmania to Vancouver.

Check out the site or read on to learn more how we built True Doors from the ground up.

The beginning

In 2014 we began what we thought was a one off life story project using pictures of doors as decals as a cue to visually represent "the story behind the door" for new residents at a care home here in The Netherlands.

While filming life story conversations we realised that our idea of using decals may have deeper benefit for residents with dementia. Later that year we tried out our idea at a nursing home and were taken aback by the results.

We noticed elders and families enjoyed the process of finding their door designs. It brought them closer together. Once the decals were installed the clinical hallways looked warmer and friendlier, people found their rooms more easily, while social interaction and reminiscence increased.

In the years since then the Lifelong Inspiration team has gradually grown True Doors adoption around the world. We are part of the culture change movement in elder care. Where choice, fulfilling lives and well being are central in a person centred culture of care.

Gaining recognition and establishing the brand

We tested a number of ideas for the product name and decided on True Doors, as we found the poetry evocative.

We entered and won the MSD Care Innovation Award in 2014. With the winnings we engaged Trimbos Institute, the Dutch mental health research institute, to undertake independent qualitative research. The results documented a wide range of benefits and the story was run on the Dutch public broadcaster NOS TV and Radio news in September 2015.

By that time, we had already completed pilot projects at nursing homes in each province in the Netherlands. With the help of the nursing homes, stories about the projects ran in local press and were widely shared and commented on in social media.

We highlighted what we were doing with English language articles on our site. In November 2016 one of these articles was picked up by Bored Panda, a news outlet focused on social media exposure. People from all over the world started asking questions and our international journey began.

The evolving service design

Initially we drove around taking pictures of the actual doors of houses where people had lived, creating shortlists of options per person and sitting with the family or staff and elder to select one specific image.

While incredibly labour intensive and totally uneconomical, we learnt about people with dementia, the environments at nursing homes, how to standardise the project process, and so much more.

We amassed a collection of two-hundred door images, from which we realised that people in The Netherlands were usually able to find what they want.

All this knowledge helped to build a library of resources, such as the project Success Guide for a person centred process and help videos, as well as the largest collection of door decals in the world.

As we completed projects in more locales, we have been able to steadily move to a self -service model where people follow guidance, order and pay online, augmented by multilingual customer service.

Technology roadmap - zero budget to custom solutions and automated processes

Lifelong Inspiration -True Doors Technology Roadmap - Stack

At first, we used Wordpress and WooCommerce, Insightly CRM and MailChimp for email marketing. As often happens with Wordpress when sites become larger and multilingual, performance slowed, bugs came up too frequently and we couldn't deliver the desired user experience.

Print files were prepared manually for each order. As we got busier, this became a material and monotonous overhead. In year three we automated the order input to print stage. This eliminated the risk of human error and reduced overhead, which led to lower prices for customers. Around the same time we moved to hubspot CRM, which we integrated with our site and began using HotJar for site analytics. Both off the shelf tools serve us well.

In year four and five we envisaged, designed and developed our own e-Commerce and order management tool. All development was done by the Lifelong Inspiration team using Python and the Flask microframework.

Our holistic best of breed approach has helped us to stage investment, continuously improve the operation and service quality, and keep headcount down. With much of the day to day now automated, we are able to focus our time on relationships and service improvement.

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