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Our members have been working with a group of Product Design and Mechanical Engineering students at Queen's University to design a smart device to help people with dementia maintain their independence and live in their homes for as long as possible.

The design comprises an object locator for the home to help people living with dementia find items such as their keys or their purse.

The project required the final year students to design a product that could be turned into a business. They decided to focus on products to assist people living with dementia. One motivating factor was that one of the students has a granny that lives with dementia and her family have found she had needs that aren't being met by existing products.

The students then approached Dementia NI to get a better insight and clearer understanding of the challenges that people living with dementia face. The project involved lots of market research, a marketing plan, financial projections and the design of the product.

The smart device works by using Bluetooth to 'call' items in the home. It comprises a main board which connects to tags on the items a person with dementia may wish to locate. The person simply presses the button for the corresponding item. As it's Bluetooth, the range is only for items in the person's own home.

"Dementia NI members have been great for both market research and help with the design of the product," says one of the students, Mary Irvine. "We had a really enjoyable focus group which gave us confidence that our product is worthwhile and would be a valuable device. The members gave us useful feedback in terms of what features would be essential for them and how much they would be willing to pay. The members also encouraged us to market this towards people without a dementia diagnosis too, as we all forget where our keys are from time to time!

"We really hope that by the end of this project we have a product that helps people living with dementia and is feasible for a business. The members of Dementia NI have helped both in confirming the object locator's feasibility as an idea and in the development of the product.

"We're focusing on making the product simplistic in terms of the interface and setting up of the device based on advice from members. We also got some great feedback from members on how much they'd be willing to pay. This now puts the challenge to us as to whether we can produce the product at a price that is feasible for a business.

"In terms of next steps, we'll continue working on the design and prepare a business plan as well as a pitch. Then there will be the opportunity for someone in the group to take the project on into a start up.

We really enjoyed working with Dementia NI members and Ashleigh [Dementia NI Empowerment Officer]. It was really easy and the members were really enthusiastic. This was a very positive experience for us."

Many thanks to the Queen's University students who worked with our members on this project: Mary Irvine, Connie Gibson, Lauryn Gibb, Peter Tipping and Kashif Taiyebi.

Are you interested in engaging with Dementia NI members on improving policies, services and practices in NI? Find out more here.

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