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Groundbreaking app set to improve the lives of people living with Dementia and carers

A new app which aims to support People with Dementia (PwD) and their carers, by creating a virtual community and unique activities to help with independent living has been announced.

In collaboration with Age Connects Torfaen (ACT), Cardiff Metropolitan University are one of the 24 semi-finalists to receive £80k grants as part of the overall £4m Longitude Prize on Dementia, to develop the app, known as DementiaConnect.

The DementiaConnect app will address the challenges associated with ‘Sundowning Syndrome’. This syndrome typically occurs during the late afternoon to early evening and causes increased distress, agitation and the occurrence of hallucinations or delusions. These symptoms significantly impact the wellbeing of PwD and place psychological and physical pressures on both the individuals and their carers.

To assist PwD, the app will offer personalised visual instructions in the form of icons or images. These instructions will allow PwD to carry out daily activities such as brushing your teeth or prompting to drink regularly, as well as participate and enjoy activities including playing board games, engaging in reminiscence with pictures or music, and participating in relaxation exercises, either individually or in group settings. Furthermore, the app will incorporate an intelligent agent, such as ChatGPT, to facilitate human-like discussions.

Dr Imtiaz Ali Khan, Reader in Data Science at Cardiff School of Technologies, said: “The primary objective of this AI-assisted support system is to relieve the burden on carers and alleviate the strain on social and healthcare services. By empowering People with Dementia, the app aims to enhance their confidence in living independently. Our ultimate goal is to have a positive, global impact on Dementia care, leading to a substantial improvement in the overall well-being and experience of those affected by the condition.

“The app will utilise machine learning algorithms based on social network analysis principles. These algorithms will enable the formation of peer-to-peer networks based on common interests or activities, and thereby enhancing the enjoyment and effectiveness of group activities. Additionally, a visualisation dashboard will be available to members of ACT and carers, allowing them to monitor key performance indicators related to the well-being of PwD.”

The high-fidelity design of the DementiaConnect app has already been constructed through the recently completed Accelerator Knowledge Transfer (AKT) project, which was funded £28k by Innovate UK. Through this project, Cardiff Met and the ACT team will be able to access technical and expert support and mentorship from Alzheimer Society, Innovate UK & Challenge Works (Nesta), key stakeholders of the Longitude Prize.

Emma Wootten, Development Manager at Age Connects Torfaen, said: “Age Connects Torfaen is thrilled to receive the Longitude Prize on Dementia. It provides us with an opportunity to develop an innovative solution to the day-to-day problems experienced by People with Dementia. By partnering with Cardiff Metropolitan University we hope to develop an app which will support people living with Dementia to live joyfully and independently. We are excited to start the process in developing the app and look forward to engaging with Carers and their loved ones on this journey.”

The Longitude Prize on Dementia is driving the development of personalised, technology-based tools that are co-created with people living with the early stages of dementia, helping them live independent, more fulfilled lives and enable them to do the things they enjoy. The £4m Longitude Prize on Dementia launched in 2022, with the aim of addressing the challenges related to independent living and fulfilling the lives of individuals with dementia. 175 innovators from 28 countries submitted their entries, Cardiff Met and ACT team were chosen as one of the 24 semi-finalists.

A total of £1.9m has been awarded to the 24 pioneering teams of developers, researchers and innovators from across the globe in the international challenge competition funded by Alzheimer’s Society and Innovate UK, and designed and delivered by Challenge Works.

Kate Lee, CEO, Alzheimer’s Society, said: “It’s vital people with dementia are able to live independently, doing things that bring them fulfilment, for as long as possible. And that’s exactly what tech innovation can provide.  Today’s Discovery Award winners all have the capacity to develop cutting-edge tools that bring hope to the here and now, making a tangible difference to people’s lives. New drugs have been discovered which slow the progression of early Alzheimer’s disease, but there’s still more to do.  Alzheimer’s Society remains committed to innovative projects like the Longitude Prize so that together we can improve the lives of people living with dementia and their families.”

Indro Mukerjee, CEO, Innovate UK said: “By addressing dementia the Longitude Prize tackles a global health crisis. Worldwide, around 50 million people have dementia and there are nearly 10 million new cases every year. Innovate UK is pleased to support this initiative along with the other vital work we are doing in this area. The UK is a global leader in innovation for healthy ageing and this prize will incentivise new technologies. This will help people with dementia, their families and their carers, to make living with the condition easier”.

The DementiaConnect project will position Cardiff Metropolitan University School of Technologies and Age Connect Torfaen at the forefront of Dementia care pathway standards for Wales and beyond.