Using technology to help dementia patients

Tech producers will compete for cash and prizes at DementiaHack event

Image of participants in the auditorium of an October 3rd workshop, learn more about dementia and the upcoming DementiaHack event

Participants of an October 3rd workshop, learn more about dementia and the upcoming DementiaHack event / Photo: EnergiPR.

“In 15 odd years the number of people with dementia will double,” says Shaharris Beh, founder and CEO of international tech-based nonprofit, Hackernest’s. With estimates as high as 1.4 million Canadians having dementia by 2031, Beh says, “this will mess up economies and entire families, and there needs to be a lot more awareness, and more than that, action taken.”

It is this sense of urgency that is spurring HackerNest in partnership with Facebook to organize a marathon technology development contest at George Brown College, aimed at creating technology for people suffering from dementia and their caregivers.

The event, DementiaHack, is taking place at the Waterfront campus on Nov. 7 at 8 a.m. with organizers expecting approximately 300 participants. Participating teams will be collaborating with health professionals and entrepreneurs to develop and present dementia-related products until 8 p.m. the following day. Cash and prizes will be awarded for the winning products, which will be judged on Nov. 9.

DementiaHack is designed to create “products to help people with dementia, and their caregivers, to make their lives better, easier, and more tolerable,” Beh explained.

The development phase of DementiaHack, lasting 36 hours, might strike some as a grueling event. But for Beh, the long hours are worth it. “It’s really intense, but at a hackathon, you get to do something that you don’t get to do in real life.”

According to Beh, that something is working together with others who have the same goals in mind and taking a product idea from start to finish in one session.

Health Canada characterizes dementia as a disease caused by a deterioration of the nerve connections and cells in the brain. Symptoms of dementia can include memory, judgement and reasoning problems, as well as changes in behaviour, mood, and communication abilities.

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Using technology to help dementia patients