4 new innovative products to support people affected by dementia

Too many people affected by dementia face barriers in their day-to-day lives. Start Voice Control, The Music Project, Smart Socks from Miltbotix, and eargym are four new products we are supporting to tackle common challenges at every stage of the dementia journey.

Our Accelerator Programme identifies and fosters innovative ideas to improve the lives of people affected by dementia.

We believe that everyone with dementia should be supported to live well, from a diagnosis through to the advanced stages.

Alzheimer's Society is excited to announce our four new Accelerator partnerships. These new products will:

  1. help those caring for people experiencing communication difficulties to reduce distress
  2. enhance life through music and meaningful activity
  3. use machine learning to support someone through their communication challenges
  4. challenge and strengthen hearing health, whilst stimulating cognitive health.

Learn about the exciting, and very original, products that our partners are developing for people affected by dementia.

4 new products to support people affected by dementia

1. ‘Smart Socks’ from Milbotix

Milbotix are creating digital technologies to enable better care. Their product, Smart Socks, sense rising distress in people living with dementia (and others who find it difficult to communicate) so their carers can intervene before things escalate.

Inventor, Dr Zeke Steer, quit his job and took a PhD at Bristol Robotics Laboratory so he could find a way to help people like his great grandmother, who became anxious and aggressive because of her dementia.

'That’s what motivated me: to find her a technological solution that might support care staff and family carers. I came to see that my great grandmother wasn’t an isolated episode, and that distressed behaviours are very common.'

    A smartphone displaying the app and a person's foot wearing a grey sock with white logos on them

    This new product can track the rising distress of a person with dementia and prevent escalation.

    The smart socks track heart rate, sweat levels and motion to give insights on the wearer’s wellbeing – most importantly how anxious the person is feeling. They look and feel like normal socks, do not need charging, are machine washable and provide a steady stream of data to carers, who can easily see their patient’s metrics on an app. 

    Zeke and the Milbotix team will be testing the socks with people living with mid to late-stage dementia and developing the tech before bringing the product to market next year (2023).

    Jacqui Arnold is a co-founder within the Milbotix team. She said, 'These socks could make such a difference. Having that early indicator of someone’s stress levels rising could provide the early intervention they need to reduce their distress – be that touch, music, pain relief or simply having someone there with them.'

    2. The Music Project Ltd

    The Music Project Ltd celebrates the positive experiences music-making brings to individuals living with dementia.

    By turning familiar objects into musical instruments, such as a piano Zimmer frame, or percussive walking sticks, they enable people to engage in meaningful activities and explore playfulness.

    Alzheimer's Society will be supporting The Music Project to develop a set of products, with the ambition of all UK care homes having access to affordable music-making equipment.

    Two innovative designs of musical instruments for care home residents

    The Music Project Ltd will enhance lives of people living with dementia through music and meaningful activity.

    Tom Maisey, from The Music Project, says ‘This work explores the emotional experiences of people living with dementia and addresses the issues of isolation and depression in British residential care homes by connecting people through music and encouraging other methods of communication.'

    'My aim has been to improve the efficiency of how music sessions are delivered through a set of working prototypes to assist and encourage participation. They are an exploration into removing the stigma and intimidation that exist in conventional instruments; this has focused on turning familiar objects into musical appliances.’

    3. Start Voice Control

    Start Voice Control is an app that is designed as an integrated memory prompt and communication support to empower communication. It is designed by and for those living with memory-based complexities, particularly aimed at those in the beginning and middle stages.

    Start Voice Control seeks to use machine learning, which is fully personalised, to support the person with their individual communication challenges, by gathering 'lost' vocabulary and recording memory loss patterns. 

    Carrie Jade Williams, Director and Creator of Start Voice Control, was diagnosed with Huntingdon’s disease in early 2020.

    Carrie Jade Williams standing in front of lush green plants, smiling and looking up to the sky

    Carrie's app uses machine learning to support people through their communication challenges.

    Dealing with the beginning of memory loss as part of her Huntingdon's disease diagnosis and determined to not to let that shape her life, Carrie designed Start Voice Control.

    ‘Start Voice Control means individuals like me can keep on communicating, even when our brains are under attack from an illness. I live with the knowledge that one day Huntington’s disease will steal me from myself.'

    This app has given me back my voice, opened up the world and allowed me to be part of it. I believe it can do the same for others like me.

    The app is voice-activated and can be used on a smartphone, tablet or a stand-alone unit. It responds based on an internal microphone up to 21.5 ft away and has the ability to run on a device at all times.

    It prompts and encourages communication through visual and word formation based on individual need: prompting individual words, word patterns (based on frontal lobe deterioration), word confusion and grammatical error – whether this helping someone to identify names of their loved ones, or prompting storylines when they’re watching television. 

    Start Voice Control ensures the individual requiring communication support can continue to express themselves as their memory needs become more complex.

    4. eargym

    And last, but by no means least, we have eargym – the new way to care for hearing before the need of hearing aids. 

    In 2017, the Lancet Commission on Dementia brought together critical evidence linking mid-life hearing loss to dementia, highlighting the fact that it’s the biggest amenable factor in 9% of all types of dementia. 

    The complete eargym experience helps people to discover their hearing health through;

    • convenient testing and progress tracking on their phone,
    • bespoke, enjoyable, immersive, auditory training games, 
    • access to a support community and ongoing advice and guidance, which includes: personalised FAQs, and industry-specific advice for our customer base.

    The training focuses on challenging and strengthening the key hearing skills, including intelligibility in noise and localisation. It also stimulates key cognitive skills linked to listening and gaming, such as attention, memory and strategic reasoning.

      Eargym app and logo

      eargym will challenge and strengthen hearing health, whilst stimulating cognitive health.

      eargym's first product to market will be launched at the end of May 2022. Alzheimer's Society will be supporting eargym to involve people affected by dementia in shaping and influencing the development of the product through four product design cycles via their user-led design panel.

      Amanda Philpott, eargym co-founder and CEO, said ‘A big part of what drives eargym is to build a product that can collect vital data about the correlation between hearing loss, social isolation, mild cognitive impairment and dementia. This collaboration with Alzheimer’s Society is very important as it brings with it access to the support and advice of people who really understand what it’s like to live with dementia. Thank you for working with us.’

      More details to follow

      We are really looking forward to partnering with Start Voice Control, The Music Project, Milbotix and eargym, in helping them to develop their inspiring products.

      Alzheimer's Society will be supporting the partners to co-create with people affected by dementia, making sure their innovations are accessible and available to the people who need them most.

      We will keep you updated on the progress, development and availability of the products in due course.

      Learn about more products

      Want to find out more about our previous Accelerator Programme partners? Visit our dementia innovation page for more information.

      Our innovation programme

      This article has been updated in May 2022 with the details of our four new Accelerator Programme partners. You can find out more about our previous partners on our Innovation page.

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      Why cannot I buy only one hug please?

      Hi Jenny, thanks for your comment.

      Hug is in great demand at the moment so currently not available. However, you can pre-order and the team will be in touch to confirm delivery and payment when they become available again. The expected delivery at the moment is Summer 2021.

      Here is a link where you can pre-order: https://hug.world/?product=buy-a-hug

      Hope this helps,

      Alzheimer's Society blog team

      Three great picks. All super-helpful, practical and very feasible ideas. I look forward to seeing how they all go - including getting the price of the wonderful 'Hug' down to something more affordable for most families.

      The HUG appears to be designed for women. What about men?

      Why does it ‘appear to be designed for women’ to you? It looks deliberately gender neutral and therefore suitable for everyone. Are you expecting a version with breasts??

      Sarcastic feedback was not what I expected.
      Have a good day.

      Hello Margaret,

      Thank you for getting in touch.

      HUG™ was originally designed for a woman who was living with advanced dementia.

      The product has been evaluated in a mixed group of both men and women participants living with dementia, in a residential care context, where it was found to benefit men as well as women.

      The product will not suit everybody and there will be some men and some women for whom it will not be acceptable.

      The colour of HUG™ has been kept neutral at this early stage of development, but it is likely that in the future 'line extensions' to the product range will provide variety in visual appearance.

      The design team will be working with Dementia Voices to explore these areas of product development as part of the Alzheimer's Society Accelerator partnership.

      - From the makers of HUG™

      Thanks, I appreciate your kind and informative reply.

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