An online application, or “app”, that was designed to help people with dementia record their life stories is being rolled out across the UK.
The Book of You is an award-winning Welsh social enterprise scheme, that aims to improve the wellbeing of people with dementia and older people generally, through digital life stories.
“Our app is really powerful and easy to use and we complement this by training staff”
Initially created as a form of reminiscence therapy, Book of You won the backing of one of the country’s leading experts in dementia – namely Professor Bob Woods from Bangor University.
It is a web-based app that can be accessed on a computer, tablet computer or other mobile device.
The app allows people to create their life story using spoken or written word, pictures, music and films – either created in it or using YouTube – making it stand out from a traditional memory book.
Those behind the idea highlighted that Book of You was a password protected site, meaning that any book created was private, but the account holder could invite others to view and contribute to it.
App to helps dementia patients reminisce to be rolled out across UK
To date, Book of You has worked with social landlords, care homes, health services and third sector agencies across the North West and North Wales.
Now, those behind the Book of You want to expand the service across the UK and are looking to build partnerships with organisations who support older people and people with dementia.
The social enterprise scheme’s director, Kathy Barham, said: “Our app is really powerful and easy to use and we complement this by training staff and volunteers to help people to reminisce. It is a valuable skill.
She said: “We know that life story work can have a real impact on improving wellbeing and reducing loneliness. It can be an important extra string in the bow for staff who want to do something new.
“We can train your staff and volunteers and license the app for organisations to use, if they are a care home, a social landlord or another care agency for older people and people with dementia’” she added.
“It has improved their health and wellbeing by helping them to relive memories”
Despite being created for those with dementia, it has reached a far wider audience and had positive benefits. Nerys Veldhuizen, older persons engagement co-ordinator for Cartrefi Conwy – a housing association with over 3,800 properties in North Wales – has been using the app with her clients for two years.
“We’ve used the app with people who aren’t necessarily diagnosed with dementia but it would be fair to say they are vulnerable, between the ages of 65 and through to their 80-plus, with memory issues,” she said.
“It has improved their health and wellbeing by helping them to relive memories,” she said. “It’s also opened their eyes to the benefits of technology and given them the confidence to use it.
“The benefits are far reaching, for example one man has learnt to Skype his family, while another has linked up with an old friend, having previously been very isolated,” noted Ms Veldhuizen.
She added: “We run supported sessions, and the beauty of Book of You is that after the initial group work, people can continue to add to their story as they want to and share that with family, friends and caregivers.”
The innovation was a recent finalist in the Social Enterprise UK Awards Tech for Good category, and winner of that category in the 2017 Social Business Wales Awards.