Ulster University launches new app for people living with dementia

1 March 2021

Ulster University launches new app for people living with dementia
Ulster University launches new app for people living with dementia

A new reminiscence app has been developed by researchers from Ulster University’s Schools of Nursing, Computing and the Belfast School of Art in partnership with Dementia NI and local app developer Scaffold Digital.

The InspireD App enables people living with dementia, their carers and families to create a digital memory book to store photographs, videos and sounds; aimed at sparking conversations and providing opportunities to share experiences and maintain relationships.

For most people, the thought of a dementia diagnosis and the fear of losing their ability to recall treasured memories is devastating. However, many people living with dementia have problems with their short-term memory and find it easier to remember things about their past. Reminiscence draws on this strength by supporting people to share their life experiences, memories and stories and in doing so to maintain and build connections with other people.

Free to download on both Apple and Android or from the HSC Apps4Dementia library, the InspireD app enables users to peruse their personal photographs and videos and in doing so, share memories about past experiences and important life events. Users can also add written or voice notes about photographs, music and film clips so that family, friends and carers understand why a particular memory or time is special. This can help trigger conversations as people using the app begin to tell and hear stories that they may have never told or heard before. All of these memories are kept in an easy-to-reach place on a smartphone or tablet.

The development of the InspireD app builds on previously published research carried out by Ulster University which investigated the impact of a personalised reminiscence programme, using an iPad app for 60 people living with dementia, their family and carers. The study showed that reminiscence improved mood, wellbeing, quality of life and relationships for people living with dementia.*

Professor Assumpta Ryan, Professor of Ageing and Health at Ulster University and InspireD app project lead commented:

“This truly collaborative project brought together Ulster’s research expertise in Nursing, Computing and Design with the lived experience of Dementia NI members and local app developer Scaffold Digital to create an app which has the power to enhance the lives of those living with dementia.

“Spending time with friends and family and sharing experiences and memories is something most of us enjoy and this does not change after a dementia diagnosis. The InspireD app is designed to help people living with dementia to stay connected to family and friends by using photographs, sounds and videos to share memories and trigger conversations that may not otherwise have happened.”

The project team worked closely with Dementia NI and their members to ensure that the app meets the needs of people living with dementia.

Dementia NI member Davie McElhinney was diagnosed with dementia four years ago. He has been using app over the past few weeks,

“I have been uploading lots of photographs on the app and it has been really useful for me. I really enjoy looking at photographs; I find it very calming, and they help me remember places I have been and people I’ve met.

“There is one particular photo from when my son and daughter were very young on a beach. When I look at the photograph I can remember that it was a really warm day and that we had a fantastic time. When I look at it, it brings back that memory, I can smell the sea and I can remember the great day we had.

“The app is a real benefit to me and I hope it’s going to benefit lots of other people living with dementia.”

Ashleigh Davis, Empowerment Officer, Dementia NI said:

“Dementia NI is delighted to have played a vital role in the coproduction of the inspireD app which provides people with dementia and their carers the opportunity to connect, and confidently reminisce through visuals, sounds and video which are individual to them. Dementia NI members are proud to have helped create an online resource that presents a personal connection to an individual’s past, we believe the inspireD app will deliver significant person-centred benefits when assisting those living with dementia to recall past life history and positively engage with their family and carers.”

The InspireD appwas commissioned by the Health and Social Care Board NI as part of a wider Dementia eHealth and Data Analytics Pathfinder Programme. The app is freely available on the HSC Apps4Dementia library (https://apps4dementia.orcha.co.uk) as part of its ongoing activities to increase the uptake of technology in supporting people living with dementia. The app has been rigorously tested and is safe to download and use on smartphones and tablets.

Soo Hun, DHCNI Innovation & Digital Eco-system lead said:

“There is growing interest in digital solutions such as mobile apps to support not just those people living with dementia but also their carers, families and friends. Working collaboratively with Ulster University, the InspireD App is part of a wider digital transformation programme in health and social care which is being led by Digital Health & Care NI with the support of the Department of Health. The overall aim is to embed clinically assured digital solutions that have been checked for data privacy and security into our clinical pathways.”

Although designed primarily for people living with dementia, their families and carers, the app will be of interest to anybody interested in reminiscence including friends and health or social care staff across a range of care settings.  

To find out more about the app please visit: https://www.theinspiredapp.com/


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