Groundbreaking Harrogate project for people living with dementia inspired by family tragedy

Two Harrogate residents have launched the world’s first entertainment DVD created especially for people living with dementia after a three-year journey inspired by family tragedy.

Monday, 25th October 2021, 10:35 am
Recognii founders Sarah Harrison and Fiona Wright from Harrogate. Sarah spotted a gap for the product when her father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease in 2015.

‘Treasure Box’ is a carefully constructed blend of uplifting, plot-free and visually engaging short clips, all set to some of the nation’s best-loved music, songs and theme tunes tailored for those whose condition is moderate to later-stage.

The DVD is the brainchild of Sarah Harrison who spotted a gap for the product when her father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease in 2015.

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Sarah said: “As the illness progressed dad was unable to follow his favourite TV programmes or actively participate in family activities and conversation.

"He became quite withdrawn and desperately needed a way to re-engage with the world.

"I searched online and was surprised by the complete lack of visual entertainment for people with dementia. I just wanted to hear him laugh again.”

Sarah joined forces with national health journalist Fiona Wright to form their own company Recognii - and the pair spent the next two years developing and testing the concept, discovering many common themes in the type of content typically enjoyed by people living with moderate to late-stage dementia.

From gentle humour, children and animals, to musical interaction, the natural world, puppetry, iconic imagery and more, each scene in the ground-breaking new DVD has been designed to capture short attention spans and specially adapted to overcome the common visual problems associated with the condition.

Recognii's DVD has already won a national online distribution agreement with a leading UK dementia aids and equipment retailer and is also being stocked by Rise Furniture and Mobility, a Harrogate-based firm which is the only mobility retailer ever to be named Retail Business of the Year.

Fiona said: “Studies have found that music and positive experiences from earlier life are stored in the ‘emotional memory’ which often remains intact for longer. ‘Treasure Box’ is based on the sort of gentle, non-threatening and uplifting content our own research suggests has universal appeal among dementia sufferers; especially the simple pleasures that come from singing and interaction with happy children, animals and the natural world.”

To accommodate the visual processing problems experienced by many people with dementia the team also took a deliberate approach to the way the content was filmed.

Sarah said: “To make everything as visible as possible we filmed against plain backgrounds, with high colour and tonal contrast and predominant use of red and those primary colours research shows are most easily recognised.

"We also took care not to feature too many busy patterns, shadows or reflective light sources.”

The ‘plot-free’ clips typically last between 30 seconds and two minutes, with each one contrasting strongly from the last to draw wandering attention back to the screen.

In keeping with the visual approach, music and vocal arrangements are simple and dialogue is kept to a minimum.

The main film is an hour in length and the DVD also has four bonus features with multiple applications for viewers and carers.

These include a 30-minute interactive singalong, a relaxing multi-sensory booth to help reduce anxiety and a ‘Stars of The Silver Screen’ montage to prompt conversation and reminiscence.

‘Treasure Box’ is available through the company’s website (www.recognii.co.uk) and selected independent retailers including award-winning mobility specialist, Rise Furniture and Mobility on Harrogate’s Leeds Road (www.risemobility.co.uk) which also stocks a range of daily living aids for people with dementia.

Sarah said: “We hope ‘Treasure Box’ will bring joy to many people living in the later stages of dementia as well as providing useful respite for carers, who can relax in the knowledge their loved one is being safely entertained.

Rise Mobility managing director Carl Drake said: “At Rise Mobility we are always on the lookout for inspirational new products that can make a genuine difference to the lives of people with mobility issues and illnesses such as dementia.

"The Recognii DVD fulfils a real need for those who can no longer enjoy regular television.”

In the future Sarah and Fiona intend to extend the Recognii range to include content aimed at specific interests and age-profiles.

For further information visit the website at www.recognii.co.uk