A receptionist at a Bupa UK care home has developed an app to help improve and maintain cognitive skills.
Heather Mead, who works at Bupa UK’s Eglantine Villa care home in Kent, developed the dementia-friendly app, after spotting a lack of apps and gaming to engage people with the condition.
She said: “The idea came to me on my first day working at Eglantine Villa. I was having a demonstration of a sensory table mainly designed for children with special needs. The activity team and some carers were talking about gaming apps and how there aren’t that many designed for the elderly or those with dementia that are easy to play.
"I started thinking about how to go about developing gaming apps that are specifically for the elderly and those with dementia. As I'm studying a BA Hons in Health and Social Care with the Open University, I reached out to them for advice on how to go about developing a gaming app – I had no coding abilities, so they advised me to contact an app developer."
Heather, who has worked in care for seven years, discussed her idea for a set of six games with an app developer. She then set up as a sole trader under the brand name Retro Games. She invested her own money into building, maintaining and marketing the dementia-friendly app – Retro Fish Game.
Heather said: "The app is a colourful fish game. The fish swims across the screen and you have to tap the fish before it gets to the other side. There is a score box and a timer to see how many fish you get in and how fast a time you get them in. There are three levels and after the fifth fish the game gets quicker, it has relaxing sea sounds as background music to help a person with dementia to focus on the fish rather than getting agitated from loud background music.
"Two Bupa care homes have trialled the game and the results have been good. With residents that have mild dementia, they find the game easy to play and they become quite competitive.
"The game is good in helping with residents' interaction and conversation with each other, with the activities team or with relatives."
As well as boosting engagement and communication, the game aims to; challenge the person playing it by exercising their mind, test reaction times, stimulate auditory and visual processing by helping the person to recognise patterns, and help improve and maintain cognitive skills such as attention, perception, memory, logic and reasoning.
Heather added: "Recreational activities improve the quality of life for an elderly person and those suffering from dementia in a care home or hospital setting.
"As the world's population is living longer, there is a significant gap in the research and development of recreational activities technology for the elderly or those with dementia and how it can help them to engage and be stimulated. Retro Games' aim is to bridge that gap."
Heather's app can be found on Google Play under the category 'cognitive skills' as Retro Fish Game and it's coming to the Apple App Store soon.