Vigour: Could a Smartly Designed Cardigan Help Fight Dementia?

vigour cardigan dementia treatmentJulianne Moore’s Oscar win for Best Actress for her powerful performance in Still Alice, a drama based on Lisa Genova’s 2007 bestselling novel of the same name, is a reminder that we must all come together to help end Alzheimer’s disease. Worldwide, 35.6 million people—a number set to double by 2030—are living with dementia today. Could the Vigour rehabilitative “smart” cardigan help with treatment?

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A team in the Netherlands has been working on a new wearable technology, or product service system, to help caregivers and therapists better care for dementia patients. Thanks to their Vigour system, in the form of a knitted cardigan with integrated stretch sensors, geriatric patients, physiotherapists and family caregivers will have more insight into the rehabilitation process of a patient. The built-in sensors monitor the movements of the upper body, collecting and tracking this data through an iPad app to give direct feedback to the wearer and physiotherapist to better visualize the progress over time and serve as a guide to enhance therapeutic approaches.

vigour cardigan dementia treatment

Photo by Wetzer & Berends

Physical, speech, and other types of therapy like music therapy can improve the overall well-being of older adults, particularly for those living with dementia, because it slows mental deterioration. The garment can be worn throughout the day, particularly during many types of physical therapy exercises, to steadily gather baseline data. The technology is basically invisible to the eye. In fact, because they’ve designed the garment with dementia patients in mind, the cardigan is not overly stimulating and feels good to the wearer. It’s a beautiful product for everyday wear.

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vigour cardigan dementia treatment

vigour cardigan dementia treatment

vigour cardigan dementia treatment

Four sensors—two on the lower back and two stretch sensors under the arms—send data to the app, which then gives performance based audio feedback to confirm that a given exercise is being done correctly. For example, piano notes might be triggered if a patient raises his or her arms. Its audio feedback feature makes it an ideal technological development for dementia treatment. Things are more fun with sound! The cardigan feeds sound or music directly into the ears of dementia patients, and tests with Vigour have revealed that some patients act as if they were conducting music with their bodies.

Photos by Joe Hammond (unless noted otherwise) and video via Vigour

This smartly designed cardigan prototype emerged from the CRISP Smart Textile Services project as a collaboration between Eindhoven University of Technology’s Martijn ten Bhömer, Pauline van Dongen, De Wever, Savo BV, Metatronics, TextileMuseum TextielLab and Unit040. To find out more, visit ThisIsVigour.com.

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