Challenge Dementia, a national prize seeking to improve the lives of people living with dementia, announced the winner last night, Wednesday 28 November.
The finalists included an impressive line-up of trailblazing technology and design driven innovations created to improve the lives of people living with dementia. They have each spent six months working with people in Essex who have personal experience of the issue to develop their ideas.
Challenge Dementia is pioneered by Essex County Council and supported by Nesta alongside partners PA Consulting, Alzheimer's Society and Tech UK.
The £100,000 prize was awarded to The WayBack, a virtual reality film series designed for those living with dementia and their carers in order to trigger shared memories and spark conversations. Through virtual reality, The WayBack recreates popular moments from the past taking viewers back in time and fully immersing them in the sights and sounds.
The WayBack team said: “Winning the prize means absolutely everything to all of us on The Wayback. It's an amazing show of faith from all of the judges and the team at Essex. With so many great ideas from the other finalists we're really honoured. Getting this far has been thanks to the blood, sweat, tears and trust of a lot of people over the past year - including those who let us into their communities to trial The Wayback, The Haven Care home and Castlegate Centre in Colchester, and Corner Lodge in Clacton."
“With this money we'll now be able to develop our app, deliver it to many more people living with Dementia including carers and loved ones and create more films in The Wayback series. The next chapters will see us recreate the summer of 1966 to trigger more memories and spark more conversations for those living with dementia and those who care for them. We can't wait."
The WayBack is one of nine projects ranging from large organisations to small charities and individuals that made it to the finalist stage of the Prize. Many of the finalists were spurred to enter the Prize by a personal experience of seeing a loved one with dementia.
As the older population increases, dementia has become one of the most significant health and care issues facing the world. In the UK it is estimated that 850,000 people live with dementia and someone develops the condition every 3 minutes. There is currently no cure. This prize was about finding ideas that can support individuals with dementia to maintain their identity and remain connected to the people and places around them for as long as possible.
The panel of expert judges were impressed by the high quality of the finalists ideas and their final pitches and took the decision to create a Highly Commended prize of £25,000 awarded to finalists HowDoI? to enable them to further test and develop their project in Essex. Using the same technology as contactless credit cards and a smartphone, Refresh by HowDoI? triggers bespoke video instructions to help with everyday tasks such as making a cup of tea.
Cllr David Finch, Leader of Essex County Council said: “Challenge Dementia is a significant milestone in the UK for how we can utilise technology to improve the lives of people living with dementia. The challenge prize model has successfully demonstrated that, by stimulating creativity and ingenuity, great ideas and products underpinned by technology and innovation can be developed for societal good. We are proud to have pioneered the first challenge prize of its kind and hope that we can inspire others to develop additional challenge prizes and effective solutions to support dementia care in the future."
Cllr John Spence, Cabinet Member for Health and Adult Social Care said: “The creation of this scheme by Essex County Council demonstrates the creativity with which we are addressing the challenges we face. Our goal was to bring in the best ideas for tackling the ever greater challenge of dementia, not being confined to the boundaries of Essex, so that we can achieve the best outcomes for our residents in the most efficient way. We are very excited to be entering into a relationship with The WayBack team and we look forward to seeing how their creativity and their use of technology can bring positive improvement to people living with dementia in Essex."
Professor Alistair Burns, Chair of the Challenge Dementia judging panel: Professor Alastair Burns CBE FRCP, FRCPsych, MD, MPhil, National Clinical Director for Dementia and Older Peoples' Mental Health, NHS England comments:
“It was fantastic to see all the work, skill and enthusiasm that had gone into the preparation of all the shortlisted bids. Essex have taken a national lead in developing this challenge prize which has really shown how the experience of people with dementia and their family carers can be improved through innovative initiatives. The array of ideas was superb and it was a very fine decision to choose one winner. The field of dementia has been greatly enhanced by Essex's vision."
Cheryl Huggins, Volunteer and Engagement Officer at Health Watch Essex, carried out focus groups with people living with dementia to gather their thoughts in the work of the nine finalists:
“It was great to be involved with the judging of the Challenge Prize. Bringing people together to concentrate their attention on improving life for people with dementia is so important and it was exciting to see how technology could be used to support new and innovative approaches. All of the participants presented their ideas with such enthusiasm it was very difficult to choose a winner, however, 'The Way Back' stood out because it engenders happiness and emotional connection - some of the things that are sadly often affected by dementia. I felt privileged to be representing the lived experience of people in Essex because we know that the best products and services in health and social care are created by truly understanding the experience of people using them. I'm really pleased that people in Essex with dementia will be able to benefit from 'The Way Back' in the future."
The Challenge Dementia prize was designed to fast-track and support the development of the finalists' products through collaboration and new partnerships. This included working alongside sector experts including PA Consulting, Tech UK and Alzheimer's Society to develop and test their ideas with people living with dementia in Essex.