Article written by Adele Peters on Fast Company Blog

When Emma Yang was 7 or 8 years old, her grandmother became increasingly forgetful. Over the next few years, those memory problems, caused by early Alzheimer’s disease, worsened. Yang, who learned to code at an early age, decided to create an app to help.

“I have personal experience with how the disease can affect not only the patient, but also family and friends. When I was about 11 or 12, I got really interested in using technology for social good to help other people around the world,” says Yang, who is now 14.

In her app under development, called Timeless, Alzheimer’s patients can scroll through photos of friends and family, and the app will tell them who the person is and how they’re related to the patient using facial recognition tech. If a patient doesn’t recognize someone in the same room, they can take a picture and the tech will also try to automatically identify them.

“I saw a lot of things about how AI and facial recognition were really evolving and being applied in more and more areas, especially healthcare,” she says. She partnered with mentors at the tech company Kairos, which makes the facial recognition software that is now used by the app, and learned to code for the iPhone for the first time.

The app also includes a simple reminder screen that lists appointments for the day, along with a simple contacts screen that shows photos of family members along with names. If a patient tries to call a contact repeatedly–something that can sometimes happen because of the disease–the app will flash a quick reminder: “Are you sure you want to call? You just called less than five minutes ago.” A “me” page shows the patient’s own name, age, phone number, and address.

A caregiver maintains some of the other parts of the app, including putting events on the daily calendar, and inviting friends and family to send an initial set of photos that the facial recognition algorithm can use to learn to identify them.

The app is still in development, and Yang doesn’t yet have proof that it will work. In a crowdfunding campaign, she’s raising money to take the next step of piloting it with patients. But she is optimistic that it can help, especially if introduced to someone in the early stages of the disease.

“There are no apps on the market that really help Alzheimer’s patients with their daily lives,” she says. “A lot of times people think that it’s not going to help, or the elderly can’t really use technology, but in fact, if you strategically introduce it to them, it’s actually a possibility and can really benefit their lives.”

Katherine Possin, an associate professor at the UCSF Memory and Aging Center who was not involved with the project, agrees. “It can be hard for somebody who has a lot of cognitive impairment or memory problems to learn a new technology or software,” Possin says. “But if somebody’s mild in their disease, and with support from their caregiver, it’s possible that if the app is simple enough that they can learn to use it through repetition and practice.”

Scrolling through the labeled photos, Possin says, can be a type of social activity for the patient, helping keep family members and friends in mind. It also could strengthen memory. “I think it can be very helpful for patients to rehearse memories that are important to them–having a chance to rehearse that can strengthen those memories and make them stronger and make them more resilient in the face of the disease.”

Yang recently shared her story on a podcast called Sincerely Hueman.

AuthorLauren Erickson

Have you seen the recent video series from the Facility Guidelines Institute on Residential Care Facilities? 

The video series showcases the experiences and perspectives of individuals working and living in person-centered residential care settings. Titled Residential Care Guidelines: A Provider, Designer, and Regulator Perspective, the series offers 24 short videos, which run from two to nine minutes each. The topics covered range from creating community to sustainable design to the relationships between residents and care providers. 

There are a series of 24 videos that will be release every Friday. Below are the videos already released to date, check back every week for a new video here

Culture Change – No More Institutional Care Model

The CEO of a senior living community explains the philosophical and economic forces behind the differences between the traditional and household models and today’s choices for how people want to live.

Person-Centered Care Households – A Caregiver’s Perspective

A caregiver at a senior living community describes how residents choose the flow of their day instead of adhering to facility schedules.

Resident Feels at Home

A caregiver at a senior living community describes how residents bring their own furnishings and personal items from their previous home to decorate their rooms to create a home environment.

A Great Bathing Experience

Residents have showers inside their personal unit instead of having to walk down the hall for a shower.

Household: Resident Choice and Quality of Life

In a household model, the kitchen remains the heart of the home and residents can get food or snacks anytime.

Continuum of Care

The increased recognition of the continuum of care has resulted in more services being available in different residential settings including independent living communities.

Independent Living Model Plus at Garden Spot Village

A senior living community provider describes housing accommodating extended family or unique family needs.

Adult Day Care – Day and Night Programming

Providers are beginning to offer adult care programs during night hours.

Sustainability – ASHRAE 189.1 and the New ASHRAE 189.3 for Health Care

Designing for sustainability was expanded with the introduction of the standard, ASHRAE 189.3, Design, Construction and Operation of Sustainable High Performance Health Care Facilities, which was developed for specific facility types in the health care continuum.

Senior Living Sustainability Guide® as a Process Guide

The Senior Living Sustainability Guide® was structured to serve as a process guide for considering the physical setting, operations, organization, and the resident in the social-cultural context.

State Adoption and Use of the Guidelines – Regulator, Provider, and Designer Perspective

A regulator, community provider, and designer discuss state adoption and use of the Residential Guidelinesfor different facility types.


A Resident’s Perspective – Loving the Household and Care
A Resident’s Perspective – Volunteering as a Key Part of Life
Saving Real Money – ROI Results from the Planning Process
First Costs and Human Costs
Environment of Care Considerations: Person-Centered Care
Importance of the Resident Safety Risk Assessment
Transformation from Traditional Model into a Household Model
Institutional Model as Last Resort
The Center of “Home”: is the Kitchen
Importance of Residential Scale
Part of the Family
Trending Multi-Generational Settings
A Sustainable Life

The series will culminate in a one-hour program sponsored by Mannington Commercial. Titled A Provider, Designer, and Regulator Perspective, this program will use an interview format to highlight the relevance, utility, and application of the minimum requirements and guidance offered in the Guidelines for Design and Construction of Residential Health, Care, and Support Facilities (Residential Guidelines).  Continuing education credits will be provided by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Continuing Education Systems (CES) and by the Interior Design Continuing Education Council for members of ASID, IIDA, IDC, and IDEC. FGI will provide this one-hour learning unit program as part of its Beyond Fundamentals offerings in the near future.

AuthorLauren Erickson