Wilson Center for Social Entrepreneurship


Mobile App Development and Usability Research to Help Dementia and Alzheimer Patients

Document Type



Caregiver anecdotes attest that music and photographs play an important role for family members diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease (AD), even those with severe AD. Tablets and iPads, which are prevalent, can be utilized with dementia patients in portraying favorite music and family photographs via apps developed in close partnership with geriatric facilities. Anecdotal research has shown that non-verbal late-stage dementia patients have become stimulated when iPods played their beloved tunes. There is an unmet need in geriatric facilities for stimulating dementia patients, as well providing hard-core data for proving increased cognitive abilities with technology. Technology can help bridge the gap between patients and staff to improve the quality of life for the cognitively impaired. This study addresses cognitive functioning and quality of life for people diagnosed with dementia via technology. In recent times, the influx of older adults suffering from Alzheimer's or dementia related illness has impacted the U.S. Healthcare system. Cognition significantly declines in older adults with AD or dementia over the course of the disease, causing most to be dependent on caregivers, thus routinely institutionalized. Caregivers are often required to focus their attention on addressing the agitation or discomfort of the AD or dementia patient. Research has shown that technology instruments such as iPods, help stimulate those with dementia. This study focuses on innovative devices such as iPads and tablets, which are mainstream and easy to use, cannot only help determine stage of dementia, but also provide stimulation to improve cognitive functioning. It is hoped that this research will analyze that specially created apps and existing assistive software can be used to decrease the symptoms and improve cognition of older adults suffering from AD or other dementia related diseases. Via service-learning courses, students developed an easy-to-use application for tablets to help- older adults with disabilities more readily use the technology. Student programmers produced apps and performed usability tests with the dementia patients, as well as met with geriatric facility personnel to produce application software that meets the patients, family, and caregiver needs and expectations. For example, a student term project produced an application entitled Candoo that utilizes Google's voice recognition and synthesis engine to navigate the web, provide the weather, and supply pill reminder alerts. Another application example included one that allows families to electronically send photographs, video clips, and favorite music from anywhere to loved ones for enjoyment. Furthermore, older adults were assessed by nursing students for cognitive functioning before, and after the semester's intervention. Such mobile apps could allow dementia persons to become less agitated and stay in their homes longer, while also providing awareness and positive change of attitude by those of another generation towards the elderly. This research will discuss student developed mobile applications in the scope of helping improve the quality of life of patients with AD or dementia.