23 August 2019
Online mahjong games could be a fun way to keep the brains of elderly active. Photo: YouTube
Online mahjong games could be a fun way to keep the brains of elderly active. Photo: YouTube

How technology can help in fight against Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s disease has become a hot topic worldwide in recent years. In Hong Kong, it’s reported that 103,000 people were diagnosed with the disease in 2009. And the number is expected to reach 333,000 by 2039.

I’ve participated in elder care services for some time, so I know quite well the difficult situation regarding Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s is a brain disease that causes a slow decline in memory, thinking and reasoning skills. Patients would gradually lose their memory, and forgot even their family members and best friends. That would bring a lot of pain for their caregivers. Moreover, some patients may have very bad temper under a memory disorder.

Currently, there is no cure for the disease. Pills can only help slow the pace of brain dysfunction. However, it’s difficult to persuade the elderly to take pills in time regularly, since they would rather hide their sickness for fear of seeing a doctor, which is quite common in traditional Chinese culture.

In most cases, the elderly would not go to see a doctor until things go really bad.

Treating the disease is a long process. But at least technology can offer some relief for caregivers of these patients.

For example, smart living can assist them in taking care of the seniors. Also, more functions such as sensors and GPS can be added to the existing emergency alarm system. That would enable caregivers to know what’s going on and find the whereabouts of their wards.

Alzheimer’s is a brain disease, therefore, big data technology used in assessing learning progress of children can also be applied here.

Prevention is better than cure; this is where technology can also play a role.

Research shows keeping the brain active is one way to prevent its deterioration. Online games geared toward the elderly, for example, could be a fun way to keep them engaged. Some US and European nations have already started research on how to use game therapy to cure cognitive disorder.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Jan 26

Translation by Julie Zhu

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Information Technology Federation Chairman

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