A new app to help people with dementia to cope with the challenges of daily life is being developed by an academic at Manchester Metropolitan University.
The program for mobile devices will trigger musical memories for people with dementia, helping them to overcome the challenges associated with the symptoms of the disease, such as memory loss, which can cause confusion and agitation.
The music will link their daily tasks to their personal choice of reminiscence music.
Dr Stuart Cunningham, Senior Lecturer in Computer Science and Information Systems, has been working on research into the effectiveness of the Memory Tracks app alongside business development expert Gordon Anderson – the lead for the development.
Mark Brill, Senior Lecturer in Creative Advertising, and Harry Whalley, Lecturer in Music Composition and Technology at the University for the Creative Arts, are also working on the project alongside Prof Richard Picking, Professor of HCI at Wrexham Glyndwr University.
Dr Cunningham said: “Memory Tracks is a platform to support care that provides a personalised selection of music tailored to an individual dementia patient’s routine, their family, carers and needs.
“The framework is that of song, association and task coming together with the robust emotional association providing the ‘glue’ between song and task.
“We expect the impact will be that patients suffer lower anxiety, depression and agitation in addition to making the care process easier. Their Memory Tracks will also serve as a constant connection between the patient, carers, and their family, assisting recognition and shared experiences.
“Further development of Memory Tracks will utilise behavioural or physical triggers and sensors to create a contextual, more immersive user experience.
“Through these tools we can help those living with dementia remain more independent in the early stages of the illness and in later stages, to be more connected to their environment.”
Gordon Anderson added: “Research shows that people remember the songs from their early childhood best. We have built up a large database of songs from the 30s, 40s and 50s, not trying to find their favourite songs but songs that people will instantly recognise.
“The hope is that, in time, the dementia patient will recognise the connection between a particular song and an activity.
“We hope to see a real and measurable improvement in the mood of residents who use the app and a much happier care environment within the home.”
The program is being developed with the help of residents at the Pendine Park care organisation in Wrexham, which specialise in providing dementia care.
The Memory Tracks team chose Pendine Park as they have championed the use of arts and particularly music over the last decade.
Sarah Edwards, who has been the artist in residence at Pendine Park for more than 20 years, is working closely with the Memory Tracks team to develop the app and oversee the trial.
She said: “We are really fortunate to have the opportunity to play a part in this important study. The Memory Track app has huge potential and could open the door to many other areas within the wider care environment or even in mental health.
“I’m looking forward to seeing how the study develops and witnessing first hand if we can use the Memory Track app to help residents with their daily routine.”