DementiaHack 2017 is coming back to Toronto this March and bringing with it hardware and software solutions for those living with dementia.

This hackathon is an attempt by the tech community to find ways for people with dementia and their caregivers to cope a little better. There are already 564,000 Canadians living with dementia. Over 22,000 men and women will get the diagnosis this year.

HackerNest, the Toronto-based founder of a global tech activism movement, will once again run the event, now scheduled for March 4-5.

HackerNest will bend traditional hackathon rules for hardware-based teams to encourage them to compete. Unlike standard rules, where it’s not permitted to enter projects that are already in progress prior to the hackathon, at DementiaHack hardware teams are welcome to enter with work that began prior the start of the hackathon.

This levels the playing field so hardware teams can compete with software teams. It helps hardware teams overcome the obstacle of the much slower iterative process compared to software.

Though, HackerNest is unable to provide hardware development resources such as 3D printers — for that teams must provide their own.

“One of the greatest events I have ever attended. I was on a personal high for days after,” said Phyllis Fehr of the Ontario Dementia Advisory Group of DementiaHack 2015 that saw participation from over 300 attendees.

The impacts of dementia

A person with dementia suffers memory loss that expresses itself in an infinite variety of ways, none of them good.

For example, parents become unable to recognize their own children, but manage to retain a sense of self. So, they know something is profoundly wrong and they can’t understand what, or why. Another effect is that people with dementia forget that they have income. But they remember that they have expenses, and believe they are bankrupt. Because dementia can also destroy short term memory they are unable to re-learn basic simple facts that would relieve their worry.

As a result people with dementia can experience very high levels of anxiety. Anti-anxiety drugs don’t seem to work for people with dementia. There is no cure, nor any promise that one will be forthcoming for a long time. Yet the body can survive for years. The emotional and financial toll on families is profound.

So, it’s a massive understatement to say DementiaHack 2017 is a worthwhile event. To stay on top of developments, sign up to be on the mailing list here.
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