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Singapore Unveils Bilingual Game App for Dementia

Image credit: sutd.edu.sg
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The Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) has introduced Ami, short for Advancing Mental Invigoration developed by Associate Professor Yow Wei Quin and her team; which aims to leverage gamification to harness the cognitive benefits of bilingualism or multilingualism in the elderly.

The app, which offers specially designed cognitive games in multiple languages, has shown remarkable results in improving cognitive skills and verbal memory among seniors, including those with early signs of dementia. With its user-friendly interface and positive feedback, Ami aims to revolutionise dementia prevention and cognitive enhancement for seniors.

Ami’s foundation lies in the hypothesis that bilingual or multilingual cognitive training can boost cognitive abilities in seniors. To validate this theory, a study involving 105 cognitively healthy and impaired seniors aged 53 to 97 was conducted.

The study revealed that seniors who engaged with specially designed cognitive games in two languages over two to three months exhibited significant improvements in cognitive skills and verbal memory compared to those playing monolingual games or none at all.

Notably, cognitively impaired seniors showed sustained improvements in early verbal learning skills six months after their last gameplay. The study also highlighted a substantial increase in the perceived usefulness and ease of technology use among cognitively impaired seniors.

Ami sets itself apart with its user-friendly and elderly-centric design. The app currently offers three touchscreen games in six languages and dialects, catering to both cognitively healthy seniors and those with early-to-moderate dementia symptoms.

These cognitive games can be played in single or dual-language modes, making them accessible to a diverse user base. To enhance engagement, Ami features avatars with culturally appropriate names like Amei, Aminah, and Amitha, delivering instructions and assistance throughout the games. Even seniors who struggle with reading can easily navigate the app.

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat unveiled the prototype of Ami marking a significant step in dementia prevention and cognitive enhancement for seniors in Singapore. Associate Professor Yow emphasised the app’s potential, stating that SUTD aims to secure funding and investment to expand Ami’s reach and eventually commercialise the app.

The next phase of the project will involve leveraging AI technologies to enrich the app’s features and game repertoire. A leading fin-tech company is collaborating on the app’s development, promising a brighter future for seniors’ cognitive well-being.

Ami’s journey began two years ago with pilot testing in collaboration with St Andrew’s Senior Care and Yong-En Care Centre. The results were overwhelmingly positive, with over 85% of seniors finding the app enjoyable, easy to use, and a valuable brain exercise. Caregivers, therapists, and voluntary welfare organisations specialising in age-tech solutions also expressed enthusiasm about the app’s potential to benefit seniors and alleviate caregivers’ burdens.

Also, playing apps like Ami provide cognitive stimulation through specially designed games, which can help slow down cognitive decline and improve memory and problem-solving skills. It offers mental engagement and entertainment, reducing feelings of isolation and improving the overall well-being of dementia patients.

Following the successful pilot test, Ami has partnered with a voluntary welfare organisation known for empowering more than 86,000 seniors since 1995. As part of this collaboration, Ami will be installed on 1,000 IM-OK tablets by December 2023, reaching a wider audience of seniors.

With its proven effectiveness, user-friendly interface, and commitment to cognitive health, Ami is poised to make a profound impact on dementia prevention and cognitive enhancement for seniors in Singapore and beyond.

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