At 7 years old, Emma Yang noticed the early symptoms of her grandmother’s Alzheimer’s disease.
Those symptoms only worsened as Yang grew up. By 11, with coding skills under her belt, Yang developed a plan to help those with Alzheimer’s: an app that helps with facial recognition. Now, at 14, the app is in development.
“I have personal experience with how the disease can affect not only the patient, but also family and friends. When I was about 11 or 12, I got really interested in using technology for social good to help other people around the world,” Yang told Fast Company.
The app is called Timeless and allows the user to scroll through pictures of loved ones, with the person’s name and relation listed. It can also identify someone by taking a picture of them, and it will try to make the facial recognition match. There’s also a screen of information about the user, with their name, age, phone number and address listed.
Timeless is still in the development and crowdfunding stages, but Yang is hopeful that, if introduced to the patient early on, it will do some good for them.
“There are no apps on the market that really help Alzheimer’s patients with their daily lives,” she said. “A lot of times people think that it’s not going to help, or the elderly can’t really use technology, but in fact, if you strategically introduce it to them, it’s actually a possibility and can really benefit their lives.”
Katherine Possin, an associate professor at University of California, San Francisco, told Fast Company that she believes the app could help, both as a social exercise and as a way to strengthen the memory.
“I think it can be very helpful for patients to rehearse memories that are important to them–having a chance to rehearse that can strengthen those memories and make them stronger and make them more resilient in the face of the disease.”