Head of Research Development and Evaluation, Alzheimer’s Society
Director of Global Health, Nesta Challenges
COVID-19 has had a huge impact on people living with dementia – they have been amongst the worst affected by the pandemic. However, can this devastating crisis lead to a breakthrough in dementia care?
While the focus over the past 18 months has rightly been on tackling the COVID-19 pandemic that has destroyed and disrupted lives around the world, another global health crisis has continued to gather momentum in the background – dementia.
In many countries, people with dementia have been amongst the worst affected by the pandemic and lockdown restrictions have led to higher levels of social isolation and loneliness. This has caused irreversible deterioration in people with dementia – with many losing the ability to walk, speak or eat.
We need a transformative breakthrough in dementia care that future generations may come to view as a silver lining of the pandemic.
A global health crisis
Today, there are 54 million people living with dementia globally, and by 2050 this is expected to soar to 130 million. In low and middle-income countries, the diagnosis rate can be as low as 10%, of particular concern given that By 2030, 63% of people with dementia will be in developing countries.
Despite progress, we don’t yet have widely available treatments to halt the progression of dementia – but importantly cutting-edge innovation does have the power to improve the lives of people living with dementia now.
Alzheimer’s Society and Nesta Challenges have teamed up to explore the potential of a multi-million-pound challenge prize designed to stimulate this innovation. We are proud to already be supported by partners including Sir Tom Hunter (The Hunter Foundation).
A high profile prize would incentivise the creation of personalised, technology-based tools that are co-created with people living with the early stages of dementia.
State of independence
We believe there is great potential for easy-to-use innovations that utilise the latest advances in technology, from artificial intelligence to machine learning and adapt intelligently to the person’s changing needs over time.
Crisis as catalyst
For the sake of the millions of people living with dementia now and the millions more who will be living with it by 2050, we need a transformative breakthrough in dementia care that future generations may come to view as a silver lining of the pandemic.
It is our sincere belief that technological innovation will be at the heart of unleashing this breakthrough.