Grandkid Inventors: A Roundup of Innovative Tech Tools for Caregivers

Today’s grandchildren may get to enjoy their grandparents for more years than previous generations—83 percent of Americans 65 and older have grandchildren, says the Pew Research Center—but they’re also seeing them live with dementia and other diseases. Are they just standing by? Not a chance: Necessity is the (grand)mother of invention in the case of these five technological caregiver tools. These creative teens want life to be better for all grandparents, grandchildren, and the caregivers who love them.

A sock sensor to alert dementia caregivers about wandering.

Kenneth Shinuzoka’s story went viral a few years ago, and for good reason. The teen inventor shared his relationship with his grandfather, who has dementia. Kenneth and his grandfather also live under the same roof. This is something 7 million other American grandparents and grandkids have in common, according to Pew Research Center data. And because of that fact, Kenneth experienced firsthand the fear of a loved one wandering—a common challenge associated with dementia. The Alzheimer’s Association says 60 percent of people with the disease will wander. His grandfather would often wander in the middle of the night, one time making it to the freeway. Though he was brought back safely, Kenneth got to work and created a sock-implanted sensor. With this tool, caregivers are alerted by smartphone that the person with dementia was up and out of bed. Watch Kenneth’s inspiring TED Talk  

A “digital scrapbook” app to help people with memory loss.

A team of seven Chicago sixth graders took a STEM assignment to the next level. They designed an app that could actually have applications beyond Alzheimer’s. Called “Remember Me,” the app would allow family members to create a digital scrapbook to jog memories, but it would also “offer facial recognition and speech technology for those who couldn’t type in a name to access a photo,” per this Chicago Tribune article about the project. The students are currently looking for a company to develop the app.

Tableware to simplify mealtimes for caregivers and people with dementia.

Sha Yao calls her award-winning Eatwell tableware “the last gift for my grandmother,” who passed away after living with Alzheimer’s. Yao was the 2014 Stanford Design Challenge winner, competing against 52 teams from 15 countries. Knowing the struggles of many caregivers and persons with dementia at mealtimes, Yao developed her Eatwell tableware, a striking, simple design that “helps to increase food intake and maintain dignity for its users, while also helping to alleviate caring burdens by making the process of eating as easy as possible.”

A test that could diagnose Alzheimer’s a decade before symptoms appear.

Nearly two years ago, Krtin Nithiyanandam of the UK developed “a ‘trojan horse’ antibody which can penetrate the brain and attach to neurotoxic proteins which are present in the very first stages of the disease,” says this article from The Telegraph. While Krtin did not lose a grandparent to Alzheimer’s, he has always been “fascinated by… the workings of the brain” and knows how many millions could benefit from his test.

A facial recognition app to jog memories.

Twelve-year-old Emma was devastated by her grandmother’s worsening dementia, so she created Timeless, an app to help people recognize their loved ones and “engage with the people around them,” she explains in this InspireMore article. As Emma shared with the online publication Tech50Plus.com, her app “allow[s] technology to do what it’s good at, such as facial recognition, and use it to solve problems that we cannot solve ourselves.” What other technological advances in caregiver tools may be on the horizon to combat the challenges of aging? Read our review of the trends and caregiver tools from the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.
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