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Charity launches Facebook app simulating symptoms of dementia

Alzheimer’s Research UK has created a new social media app designed to simulate some of the symptoms experienced by people with dementia. FaceDementia – www.facedementia.org – harnesses a person’s recent activity to give an insight into what hundreds of thousands of people with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia go through each day. The thought-provoking app, which launches today (29 April), was developed with input from volunteers, all of whom have been affected by dementia.

FaceDementia shows users what it would be like to forget where they live, work or go to school or who their loved-ones are, using a combination of personal photos, status updates and other information shared on their page. People can also watch short videos featuring people affected by dementia explaining how the symptoms FaceDementia simulates impacted on them or their relative.

The app does not hold on to any data or scramble a user’s real timeline or Facebook information, instead presenting an overlay to show how dementia can affect the brain.

Rebecca Wood, Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, the UK’s leading dementia research charity, said:

“Facebook’s appeal is that it can gather your friends and family and keep them close, with memories and contacts all contained within one space. It also develops a diary of your life since you joined the site and documents your thoughts and musings during that time. We wanted to use these Facebook features to illustrate how those thoughts and memories can be confused, or forgotten altogether, as experienced by some of the hundreds of thousands of people across the UK living with dementia.

“We fund more than £22 million of dementia research in the UK, but we’re also dedicated to raising awareness of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Stigma around dementia is due in part to a lack of public awareness and understanding, so FaceDementia will be invaluable in helping people better understand the condition. We hope people will help spread the word by taking part at www.facedementia.org then sharing with their friends and family on Facebook.

“Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias pose one of the greatest threats to public health now and in the future. Research is the only answer but funding still lags far behind other serious diseases. We hope FaceDementia highlights why it’s so important to invest money into research so our scientists can tackle the devastating diseases that cause dementia.”

One of the videos on the app features singer-songwriter Rupert Stroud, from Ilkley, near Leeds, whose grandma Eileen died with Alzheimer’s disease in 2009, aged 87.

He said:

“My grandmother was a lovely, wonderful person, with one of the sweetest, kindest natures you could find. I think that’s probably the most heartbreaking thing – dementia strips the character of the person you love. It’s so important to try and get the message out there to everyone. Whether or not you’ve been touched by Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, everyone needs to understand just how tragic it is.

“Alzheimer’s Research UK’s FaceDementia app is a very powerful tool which I hope will make people realise how dementia affects the individual. Watch the app and imagine how frightening this must be. Memories are so important to us as human beings. Without our minds and memories we’re nothing but a shell. Research into Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias is vital and must be funded if we are to have any chance of finding a cure. Please watch and share FaceDementia.”


Alzheimer’s Research UK