By now, everyone knows that challenging the brain as we age can help keep it sharp, and could possibly prevent late life cognitive decline. That’s why games and puzzles geared towards seniors having been popping up in app stores with increasing regularity over the past several years. The most popular memory app is Lumosity, which had over 50 million paid subscribers in 2014. Lumos Labs, the company behind Lumosity, claimed that their games would train the brain and help users improve performance on every day tasks, and protect against cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease. The Federal Trade Commission, however, believes that Lumos Labs preyed on consumers’ fears about cognitive decline without providing evidence that their games actually worked. In February, 2015, Lumos Labs paid $2 million to settle the FTC deceptive advertising charges.
Perhaps there is another way to use app technology to help our seniors. Companies like RemindMeCare and Dementia Citizens have created apps that focus on creating a digital storybook of a patient’s life as a way to share memories with caregivers, friends, and family. A digital memory box of sorts, the apps store photos, videos, songs, and some even create family trees to help those with memory loss reminisce about their past. Some apps create reminders for meals, appointments, medicine administration and the like, helping patients become more self-sufficient.
All of these functions could perhaps be performed without using technology, of course. An album filled with photos, a CD loaded with favorite songs, a post it note on the recliner reminding someone to take their medicine at 3:00. But what makes these apps stand out is that they foster communication between the patient, the caregiver, and the family, enabling what RemindMeCare calls the “Care Circle.” Loneliness and isolation has been proven to have detrimental effects on cognitive function. Making the patient feel less isolated, perhaps by gently reminding them the names of the people around them, can make their lives easier and prevent embarrassment. Samsung is even working on a Bluetooth activated app that alerts a patient when someone from their circle, be it a friend, family member, or caregiver, is nearby. It will show the patient photos and even videos to jog their memory and help foster important connections.
Some Helpful Apps
Are there any apps you think would be helpful for older adults?