New multi-sensorial game to improve memory and cognitive skills of people with dementia
This Singapore entrepreneur was inspired to develop activities for dementia patients at home. Matchlink is a a multi-sensorial game that encourages intergenerational play.
Two years back, Cassandra Seah’s life took an unexpected turn when her grandfather forgot to come home one day. She was inspired to develop activities for dementia patients at home.
The incident also motivated her to design solutions for the vulnerable groups within our society, particularly the elderly, economically disadvantaged and minority groups.
“Often, these are the people who genuinely and desperately need our help to empower, enrich and ease their lives”, says this Singapore entrepreneur.
As part of Nanyang Technological University’s (NTU) project for Jurong Community Hospital (JCH), Cassandra devised a game for its in-patients with dementia.
Thus was born Matchlink, a multi-sensorial game for people with dementia.
According to a study in Singapore, one in 10 people aged 60 and above has dementia. Dementia is group of symptoms associated with a decline in memory or other thinking skills severe enough to reduce a person’s ability to perform everyday activities. By 2030, the number of people with dementia in Singapore is expected to grow to 103,000.
Alarmingly, the disease is also affecting younger adults. An estimated 4,000 people in Singapore have young-onset dementia, which affects those aged 65 and below.
There is no cure for dementia, and its symptoms are irreversible. However, with medication and therapy, it is possible to slow down the progress of this disease.
Studies have also shown that sensory stimulation can benefit patients with dementia. They can help to improve their mood, self esteem and well being, stimulate memories and encourage social interaction.
Matchlink consists of simple games involving blocks, colours and textures, that can stimulate the sensory, visual, memory, precision, co-ordination, orientational and creative skills of patients.
MatchLink allows caregivers, occupational therapists, volunteers, children and youth to engage people with dementia.
The game was developed for people with dementia but also has many potential users ranging from people with nerve problems, children with autism etc. This fun activity can help users grow, engage and promote their cognitive and social skills.
In order to create the Matchlink game, Cassandra worked almost 24/7 and spent most of her savings until she was just left with $2 in her bank account!
Last year, she and co-founder Sim Cheng Yu decided to commercialise the product and make it available to the public.
There are 8 different levels, and caregivers can make out whether the condition of the patient has improved or worsened from the time taken and other parameters. A scoring sheet is also provided to track progress of gameplay over time.
Check out this video which shows how this simple game can be used:
The best part about Matchlink is that it can be used as a bonding activity for the whole family and not just as a means to “test” patients. It is also the reason why Cassandra named her company, ‘GenConnects’ – she hopes the game will encourage intergenerational play.
Cassandra’s efforts have been well-appreciated. MatchLink has won awards like the highly competitive International Design Excellence Awards (IDEA) Bronze level award, by the Industrial Designers Society of America after competing against 1600 entries. Past winners of the IDEA award includes the Oculus Rift, Tesla’s Model S and even Apple’s original iPhone.
So far, volunteers and occupational therapists in Singapore have used Matchlink in Jurong Community Hospital (JCH). They have found that it is a good method to engage and stimulate users, and is a much better tool than what is available in hospitals right now.
Matchlink is also all set to be used in Ang Mo Kio Thye Hwa Kwan moral charities and Changi General Hospital.
You can purchase Matchlink online at https://www.genconnects.org/product-page/matchlink-rehabilitative-sensory-game .
Right now, it is being sold at $89.90, but Cassandra hopes that in future she can make the game even more affordable for families.
It is heartening to see bright young minds like Cassandra so driven by the desire to enrich the lives of others and make the world a better place. Here’s wishing this young entrepreneur more success ahead.