AAL Smart Ageing Challenge Prize Finalists – AlzhUp
An app to fight Alzheimer’s
Inventor with personal experience of Alzheimer’s shortlisted for major prize for AlzhUp, a system developed to delay the effects of dementia
Dementia is a condition that affects more and more people across the globe and the numbers are only going to increase, particularly with those suffering with Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia. Alzheimer’s currently accounts for 80 per cent of all dementia cases and more than 47 million people are suffering with it worldwide. That figure is set to double by the year 2050.
As well as being a medical challenge, Alzheimer’s is also an economic issue. On average, each patient costs the average family €35,000 a year in care, lost earnings and other expenses and, of course, every case is also distressing for the sufferer and his or her family and friends.
While medical research is delivering promising results, drugs to cure or slow down the development of the disease are some way off. Now a team in Zaragoza, Spain, has launched a new internet-based application designed to fight the disease by delaying cognitive impairment and helping people remain active while ageing.
AlzhUp is the brainchild of Marcos Valenzuela, who spent three years working with a team of technology, health and business experts to develop a system to help those living with Alzheimer’s and their families remain connected in a unique and personal family network.
The first service of its kind, AlzhUp allows patients and their caregivers to upload memories to the cloud in the form of photos, video, music and text and catalogue them to build a clear and recognisable picture of the patient’s history. All the family can share different moments through different devices – tablets, phones and wearables – and combat together the effects of the illness.
Customised therapies, based on personal memories, are also available, designed to maintain cognitive functions and prevent behavioural problems. These come in the form of mental and physical exercises and, by using gamification techniques, are designed to be enjoyable as well as a valuable in fighting the effects of the disease.
All this is accessed through a simple and attractive app that can be downloaded on to a variety of devices. Further therapies are planned and continual development of how they impact on cognitive impairment will take place.
Both Valenzuela and co-founder Rafael Espinosa are passionate about AlzhUp and the need to tackle Alzheimer’s and improve the quality of life for those who suffer with it. “We both have personal experience of the disease, with people in our families having Alzheimer’s,” says Valenzuela. “That has really motivated us to do something about it – and I know we can.
“I have also always thought that when I am older, too, I do not want to lose the quality of life that I have now,” he continues. “That is why I thought up AlzhUp, to continue giving quality of life for people with Alzheimer’s.”
Now AlzhUp has been shortlisted for the first ever Active and Assisted Living (AAL) Challenge Prize, which is awarding €50,000 for the best product or idea that uses internet connectivity or the Internet of Things (IoT) to empower older adults to achieve the quality of life to which they aspire, socially and independently.
15 entrants from a healthy total of 200 have now been shortlisted for the prize and these finalists have already attended a special Innovation Academy in Brussels in July, where their ideas were further scrutinised by the judges and where they received advice on how these ideas can be further commercialised for what is a massively growing market.
Karin Weiss, Deputy Managing Director and Head of Grants at the AGE Foundation and one of the competition judges, said: “We were delighted by the variety of entries we received. We saw many interesting solutions and were particularly impressed by the approach taken to bridging the gap between the older and younger generations, as well as the approach to stabilising the quality of life at home for older people.
“The challenge now is to identify a winner that is exciting, commercially viable and close to the edge of the market,” she adds. “We want to see the prize being used to connect this potential with investors, refining the prototypes and creating impetus to get the solution to market.”
A huge amount of work is being done in Spain in the sector and, with innovators like Marcos Valenzuela already engaged in developing solutions designed to increase the quality of life for older people, hopes are high that this simple, smart solution will pick up the top prize when it is announced at the AAL Forum, being held at St Gallen, Switzerland, in September.
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