Environment: Making it better wherever you are
Imagine that a family member or dear friend has just received a diagnosis of early-stage Alzheimer’s disease. What will you do? Wouldn’t it be great if you could set up some sort of device that could record that one's past experiences and somehow link those stores with the places where they happened - like creating a GPS memory map of these treasured tales. This “map” could not only preserve memories for the family, but provide a stabilizing anchor for the one who will be going down the road of Alzheimer’s, that road that is fraught with uncertainty.
Thankfully, a young group of scientists in Copenhagen are on it. “Memory Maps” is a program that recently won third place in the Stanford Center on Longevity’s Design Challenge. You can read over the challenge winners here. I liked Memory Maps the best even though they came in third. Here are some highlights of the project:
Memory Maps from Ritika Mathur and Shu Yang Lin at Copenhagen Institute of Design allows a person with early-stage cognitive issues and his/her family to record memories and then coordinate them on a map with real-world locations of where they took place. This would utilize a small device with an RFID reader, a map of the patient’s neighborhood and GPS technology.
One in every three individuals is prone to the risk of Alzheimer’s. Often the path from early diagnosis to mildly severe stages takes a couple of years. However, there is a feeling of helplessness associated with the disease and people experience declining confidence levels. Memory Maps aims to support at such phases of life when things are slowly starting to deteriorate by focusing on the moment of ‘now’ that in turn creates rich experiences for the future.
Often it is not just the person affected by Alzheimer’s who feels lost and lonely but also their family. During our research, we identified that caregivers and family members feel the disease is taking away their loved one and slowly creating a void due to which they start to feel more distant. Memory Maps thereby hopes to push power back into the hands of both the patient and the family members to enjoy each moment when they are together or apart.
We all have a story. A story that needs to be told and shared with those we love. Memory Maps helps preserve these special stories by bringing people closer and encouraging conversations amongst individuals and the family.
Memory Maps secures a more optimistic future by strengthening their family ties and shared experiences. Revisiting memories over time provides a notion of ease and comfort when at that location and a sense of contentment and curiosity when conversing about it. There is a certain joy to embrace life as it is and Memory Maps facilitates that for everyone in contact with the disease. It helps patients stay mentally active throughout the recording and reminiscing process, thereby assisting a more self-reliant and independent life. It provides family members with a platform to share past experiences with them that spark conversations and hence feel more able and connected. Finally, it invites the patients and their loved ones to participate in each others memories, think about the present and enjoy that fleeting moment for everything that it has to offer.
Our goal was not to bring back what’s gone but to find out what is still there and nourish and cherish that. Professional caregivers found this to be the core value of the concept because it strengthened the outlook that is desired to deal with such a daunting disease.
I could find no mention of when this useful tool will be on the market. Certainly if you’re interested, you can contact the project team via their website. While you're there be sure to watch the two minute video of a grandfather and his grandson using Memory Maps.