Why we made FaceDementia

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By James Odell | Monday 28 April 2014

Like many other charities, we’ve developed a strong social media presence on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Storify… the list goes on as social media technologies develop. But we wanted to harness the power of Facebook to illustrate some of the symptoms experienced by the 820,000 people in the UK affected by dementia.

Your Facebook family

Facebook’s appeal is that it can gather your friends and family and keep them close, by:

  • Keeping your treasured memories in a digital space (via photos of you and your contacts)
  • Documenting a chronology of your thoughts and musings (for those of us who liberally use the status updates)
  • Developing an online diary of your life since you joined Facebook.

We wanted to use these Facebook features to illustrate how those thoughts and memories can become confused, or forgotten altogether; as experienced by so many people living with dementia.

We worked with people affected by dementia and a web expert to develop a project that harnesses your recent Facebook activity with friends to simulate some of the symptoms of dementia that some people experience.

Volunteers

We were lucky enough to work with some of our volunteers (all of whom are affected by dementia) to get their input during the project’s development and testing, which has helped us produce the final version.

We have also provided video links throughout the app (or ‘experience’ as we’re calling it) so you can watch short clips of people affected by dementia explaining how the symptoms that the experience simulates affected them or their loved one in the real world. At no point during the experience do we hold on to your data; it’s a dementia awareness raising tool, illustrating some of the effects of the condition.

The experience is best viewed on your PC or Mac with your zoom settings at 100% and doesn’t scramble your real timeline or Facebook data; instead it presents an overlay to show how dementia could affect you and your memories.

Once you’ve experienced this, your Facebook returns to how it was before, unlike the many people whose lives are sadly affected by the condition worldwide.

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James Odell