The digital solution to dementia, a way to use family secrets to jog your memory

As we grow old, our memory weakens more and more. One of the defining factors of growing old, in fact, is losing memories from our youth, while for some even short-term memory is affected. Nowadays, technology can help bring some of those back for our elders.

Dementia is something that affects a high number of elders. This is an umbrella term for a group of symptoms associated with a decline in memory and other thinking skills. For instance, Alzheimer and vascular dementia are often covered by this term, while other times it’s replaced with “senility.” Whichever term you use, the problem remains the same.

So, what can we do to help our elders? Well, one lady had an idea – build an app. That joke about “there’s an app for that” seems to become truer by the day as apps are developed not just for entertainment, but also for more compassionate and practical reasons.

Jennifer Rozbruch built GreyMatters, an iPad app, with her grandmother in mind. The only way Rzobruch’s mom managed to connect to her grandmother was through music from her youth, stories from decades ago, or photos. Therefore, the app she ended up creating allows users to mix just those elements.

GreyMatters is an app that managed to win the top prize in the Fast Company’s 2018 World Changing Ideas Awards. You can upload photos, music, and memories for your loved ones suffering from dementia, Alzheimer’s or any other memory issues. In short, you can put your family secrets in that app, your family tales. While the idea here is to help your elders, perhaps it isn’t such a bad idea to create a type of time capsule for your aging family members.

Select special photographs, add comments, enrich with music, share family secrets, or specific tales and put them all together. This isn’t a new practice of course – scrapbooks and albums have been a thing for many decades – but we can do this digitally now.

There are many longterm benefits to this new app, as well as any other that is similar – we can help build this trove of memories that we can use even for ourselves when the time comes, to jog our memory, to keep ourselves on the floating line. The days of physical albums are fading, making room for those of digital memory chests.

There’s a concern about privacy, of course, because anything we put online is at risk, but cloud systems are becoming more and more secure, so if you pick carefully, encrypt data, and make sure to apply several layers of protection, it should all be safe until you need to use it. Alternatively, you can always keep things offline, on a private drive. In the long run, the benefits are clear – not only will we keep our memories safe, but we’ll also be able to jog our brains to remember those memories.

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