A Lancashire woman living with dementia welcomes a new multi-million-pound competition to find technology that supports people in the early stages of the condition, to live independently at home for longer.
The Longitude Prize on Dementia is a £4.3 million prize pot funded by Alzheimer’s Society, Innovate UK and Challenge Works.
It is calling for innovators to create breakthrough technologies that learn from a person living with dementia, adapting for their condition as it progresses to help maintain their independence.
In a new survey of people with close family and friends living with dementia in the North, two thirds (66%) say technology would become more important in the future for managing dementia.
More than half (54%) surveyed said they would feel less concerned about their relative’s safety if they had technology to help them live independently.
Gina Airey, 63 from Rossendale in Lancashire, is a retired teacher. She was diagnosed with vascular dementia five years ago.
Technology such as electronic key finders helps Gina manage in the house when she loses her keys, TV remove or glasses.
Gina explains: “I manage most life skills but nothing prepared me for the constant frustration of losing things and failing to recall where small items have been left after going into the garden, shopping or returning home tired.
“It is exhausting looking for items when your recall is poor. To help me with this, I acquired a set of six key finders which are fantastic!
Key finders are electronic fobs that are attached to things such as key rings, keys, mobile phones cases, TV remotes and glasses cases with sticky pads.
There is a colour/letter coded stand up remote. When you press the corresponding button the fob on the lost item will beep for several seconds alerting the person to the item.
Gina continues: “It was easy to set up as the buttons are large and the colours relate to each fob. The items do have to be in range of the remote beeper to sound, but it is not bulky and can be moved about until you locate the lost item.
“They are coded A to F which I have listed on the noticeboard next to the remote. For instance, A is front door and B is back door. It really has been a game changer and is technology that really helps.”
People surveyed in the North revealed that although loved ones benefitted from existing technology including monitoring devices (22%), GPS tracking devices (14%), and phone reminders (13%), around three in ten (30%) of people said their friends and relatives didn’t use technology at all.
There are 900,000 living with dementia in the UK, around 17,000 are estimated to be living with the condition in Lancashire. A survey by Alzheimer’s Society revealed 85% of people said they would want to stay at home for as long as possible if diagnosed with dementia.
Marion Child, Head of Service for Alzheimer’s Society in the North West, said: “We know that people with dementia want to live independent, fulfilled lives doing the things they love and our research shows that people feel that technology could play a crucial part in helping them live the lives they want.
“Most existing technology for people with dementia is designed to keep them safe, or give their carers peace of mind. But there are huge opportunities to harness cutting-edge technology to help fill in the gaps in their brain and thinking as their condition progresses.
“The results showed that many felt technology, like facial recognition, could help them communicate when their speech declines, but would not be available in their loved ones’ lifetime, however amazingly it already exists in the apps and smart technology we use every day.
“We could repurpose the software of TikTok and WhatsApp to help people put a name to a face or remember a word. The new Longitude Prize on Dementia will open up huge possibilities in this area, making technology work for people living with dementia and their families.”
The £4.34m Longitude Prize on Dementia will award £3.34 million in seed funding and grants to the most promising innovators, with a £1 million prize awarded to the winner in early 2026.
In addition, wider support has been funded to provide innovators with crucial insight and expertise – such as access to data, collaborations with people living with dementia and advice on product design.
The prize has received generous support from UK donors The Hunter Foundation, CareTech Foundation and Heather Corrie, as well as the Medical Research Council.
To find out more and enter the Longitude Prize on Dementia, go to dementia.longitudeprize.org Entries close on 26 January 2023.