Hourglassalbum.com Hopes to Slow Memory Loss and Dementia

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Sean Christensen, former employee of Bliss Tubs, has not stopped thinking about how to help seniors. The current University of Southern Carolina medical student has partnered with his classmate, Robert Gereige, to establish a new website that they hope will help seniors and their caretakers slow memory loss and dementia.

Hourglass (www.hourglassalbum.com) uses images from pop culture to reignite memories from the user’s youth. All you need to do is put in your year of birth, your hometown and your gender. The website will then give you a series of images with the prompts of “Like” and “Nope.” Clicking either will move you to the next image.

According to the website’s founders, Hourglass also allows facilitators to work with Alzheimer’s patients to customize the series of images, using photos that they know will evoke a response. Along with their colleague Regis Blanc, Christensen and Gereige have come up with an algorithm to best match the photos to a person’s age, gender and location, finding the images that will have the most potent effect.

The students hypothesize that a trip down memory lane could help seniors preserve their recollections longer. Research has shown that reminiscence therapy might be a viable method to fight dementia.1 This is demonstrated in the documentary Alive Inside, a clip of which is embedded below:

By triggering memories, seniors would be able to improve their power of recall. In doing so, dementia’s impact on the elderly could be severely weakened. This change would make it easier for seniors to continue aging at home, as they would not need to relocate to a senior living center in order to get support.

So far, Hourglass has been pilot tested on non-dementia patients in the geriatric unit at the Palmetto Health Richland. These initial tests were promising, as the patients’ anxiety levels decreased as they flipped through the images.

Hourglass was developed from the duo’s social media website TimeStash (www.timestash.com), which used videos and photos from pop culture to stimulate users to share content. However, Hourglass focuses more on senior audiences. At this moment, the website is still developing. The pair hopes to interview more older patients to build their database and get a more comprehensive impression of what pop culture photos will provoke a response. Christensen and Gereige are also concentrating on finishing medical school.

  1. Reminiscence therapy: Finding meaning in memories
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