The Facebook app, called FaceDementia, is designed to simulate the symptoms of dementia by showing users what it would be like to forget where they live or work or who their loved ones are. Working as an overlay over someone’s Facebook profile it shows content gradually disappearing, mimicking the memory loss that can occur with dementia.
The app will then direct people to watch short videos featuring people affected by dementia explaining how the symptoms simulated by the app can impact sufferers and their families
Rebecca Wood, the charity’s chief executive, told Marketing Week: “Facebook is a really poignant tool to use. When people see their own photos disappearing it brings home the practical knock-on effect of getting dementia in a sympathetic way. It helps people understand what sufferers are going through and the effects that can have on them and the people around them.”
She said the aim of the app is to increase awareness of dementia, with the success of the campaign judged on how many people download the app and share it with friends across social media. The charity will also be monitoring visits to its website and donations.
Alzheimer’s Research UK funds around £22m in dementia research but says more donations are needed as the disease becomes more prevalent. There are currently around 820,000 people in the UK with dementia costing the country £23bn a year but that figure is expected to double as the UK population ages.
“We have to get people thinking about dementia and the impact it is having. Age is the greatest risk factor but it’s not the only one. There is an assumption this is not a disease and there is nothing we can do about it. There is but the research takes time,” said Wood.
The social media push is an acknowledgement by the charity of its widening supporter base as instances of dementia increase. Where most of its donors used to be those aged over 65, the charity’s head of communications Tim Parry said the families of those suffering are increasingly interested in giving money and it needs to make sure it reaches them across multiple platforms.
Alzheimer’s Research started putting a digital team in place a year ago and Parry said this campaign, which he describes as “lean”, will serve as a trial. If it is successful the charity will look to invest more into digital and social campaigns.