For every three seconds that elapse, at least one person in the world develops some form of dementia. The resulting loss of memory and judgment creates harrowing situations for patients, families and friends alike. There is also no cure, and treatments depend on the stage of the disease. However, thanks to inventor Anne-Christine Hertz, a revolutionary new treatment approach is developing around the Health Technology Centre of Halland in Sweden. This treatment is also our Installation of the Week.
It’s been dubbed BikeAround, and it pairs a stationary exercise bike with moving images from Google Street View — the technology that launched back in 2007 allowing for panoramas of virtually any accessible location. These street views, carefully chosen from landmarks in the patients’ lives, are then projected on a thin and foldable dome-like screen in front of the stationary bike for an immersive combination of mental and physical activity. Amazingly, it is this interactive synergy of exercise and recognizable moving pictures that seems to offer up moments of incredible lucidity. By producing dopamine in the brain and unlocking something more intangible in the mysterious and misunderstood world of human memory, these patients are able to snap back into reality for at least a few moments at a time on a regular basis.
As Hertz herself wrote in a recent blog about BikeAround for World Alzheimer’s Day, “We were conducting research on dementia, and noticed people living with the disease were given different access to physical activity depending on which municipality they were living in. Since it’s often recommended that dementia patients perform physical activities to stimulate both physical and mental health, this was an issue. We wanted to find a way to motivate the elderly with dementia to exercise more, in a safe and secure way.”
The development of the BikeAround system, which is now owned by health care company Camanio Care, started back in 2010. As testing of the BikeAround system continues, the hope is that it will soon become available to patients and families stricken by dementia around the globe.