New initiative helps people with dementia retain independence

£100,000 up for grabs for next-generation products, technologies and services to aid people with dementia

The first national search was launched this week for next-generation products, technologies and services that could transform the lives of people with dementia.

Pioneered by Essex County Council as a UK-wide prize initiative, Challenge Dementia was developed in response to an official report produced in conjunction with The Public Office, Dementia Voices, which recommended that people living with dementia should be actively encouraged to retain connections to their existing lives and be enabled to use new technologies to support independent living.

Challenge prizes aim to accelerate innovation for wider social good.

The prize provides an exciting opportunity and a catalyst for people who might already be developing ideas to kickstart projects, uncover potential innovations, and develop ground-breaking solutions that will not only positively change the lives of individuals, but will also contribute to influencing the existing dementia system for the better

Challenge Dementia is open to individuals, teams and companies from across the UK.

In May, a panel of judges will invite up to 10 finalists to test and develop their ideas in Essex over a six-month period.

Each will receive £5,000 and access to a unique eco-system of dementia experts from across the community, voluntary, public and private sectors, as well as people living with dementia. £100,000 will be awarded to the winner who successfully meets the entry and judging criteria.

Cabinet member for health and adult social care at Essex County Council, Councillor John Spence, said: “Challenge Dementia is the first national initiative of its kind designed to empower people living with dementia to live independently for longer; and Essex County Council is delighted to be providing the incentive and framework for the prize by acting as the core testing and innovation hub.

“The prize provides an exciting opportunity and a catalyst for people who might already be developing ideas to kickstart projects, uncover potential innovations, and develop ground-breaking solutions that will not only positively change the lives of individuals, but will also contribute to influencing the existing dementia system for the better.”

Solutions might include an easy-to-use service that keeps people connected to their family or friends; a programme that helps and encourages people to keep in contact with the places they love, from walking outdoors to enjoying a pint at their local pub; or even a simple digital solution that helps people connect with their community according to their likes.

Colin Capper, head of research development and evaluation at the Alzheimer’s Society, added: “The Challenge Dementia initiative and its goal of encouraging more people to put their time and energy into making life better for people affected by dementia aligns strongly with our own.

“With that in mind I am thrilled to say that the Alzheimer’s Society fully supports the challenge and is committed to helping to spread the word far and wide.

“We fully appreciate the importance of ensuring that as many people as possible unite against dementia by using their skills and expertise from a wide variety of backgrounds and industries to strive for change.

“Until the day comes when our ultimate vision of a world without dementia can be realised; it is imperative that as a society we keep working towards new and innovative ways of not only making life easier for people affected by dementia but of giving them back control over their own lives and future in a safe and accepting environment.”

Until the day comes when our ultimate vision of a world without dementia can be realised; it is imperative that as a society we keep working towards new and innovative ways of not only making life easier for people affected by dementia but of giving them back control over their own lives

And Ben Moody, head of health and social care at Tech UK, told BBH: “There are already exciting and ground-breaking innovations happening in the space.

“Our hope is that this challenge will encourage anyone with an idea, product or adaptation to come forward for the chance to test and develop their idea with the financial, creative and practical support of industry experts.

“Dementia is a rapidly-growing issue which, over the next few decades, will have touched the lives of most of us in some way, if indeed it hasn’t already.

“Technology can be utilised in a multitude of ways. Whether it’s developments in assistive technology to facilitate memory, reduce risk, or something completely different; it is vital that we keep thinking, developing and pushing the boundaries of technology to empower people living with dementia to remain connected to the people and places around them and to maintain their identity.”

In evaluating entries, a panel of experienced judges, brought together from across the dementia profession and world of innovation, will consider how well ideas address the challenge and meet five criteria. A shortlist of finalists will initially be selected in order to determine the overall winner of the £100,000 prize.

The criteria covers:

  • Innovation: Ideas should be new, adapted or repurposed tools, programmes, technology or digital solutions that can bring about a step change in the quality of life for people with dementia and their network of friends and family
  • Person centred and impactful: Entries should demonstrate an appreciation that each person living with dementia is an individual and consider how the impact of their idea can be measured
  • Affordability and usability: Entries must demonstrate affordability and ease of use for people living with dementia
  • Potential for growth and sustainability: Entries should set out plans to increase the scale of the idea beyond the pilot stages of the challenge prize
  • System fit: Entries should acknowledge the current and future demands on health and social care services and how their idea fits alongside the current range of statutory and community support on offer to people living with dementia

The winner will be announced in December.

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