StoriiCare: a platform that proves technology can help Dementia
Photo credit: Cameron Graham, Storii
Meet the millennial who created an app that plans to revolutionise the care sector by helping people with dementia.
We all have memories – some good, some bad, some from long ago and some more recent. Your memory is your brain’s filing system. However, as you age, your memories may become less stable and reliable due to conditions such as dementia. This provoked Cameron Graham to develop Storii and StoriiCare: two memory storing apps that ensure that personal stories are not forgotten, utilising technology that plays on reminiscence, when our minds and memories are not what they once were.
Storii is a memory storing app that offers the user the ability to upload unlimited photos and videos on one location that can be shared with friends and family. It is free and open to the public: a creative blend of Facebook’s social interconnectivity and Dropbox’s plethora of storage space. The platform is predominantly used through an impressive app that is streamlined and allows users to ‘log the moments that really matter’ from a smartphone. It is an easy way to salvage the user’s most important photographic memories amidst the clutter on their phone.
The app’s simple yet effective power was not the only thing I discussed with Cameron Graham, he also took me through StoriiCare – a platform that aims to improve the lives of dementia sufferers. We met in a café near his office in central Glasgow to discuss its inception: “StoriiCare is how we make our money as a business” he explains.
“We enable the care home to create a profile for each resident in a care home. Families from around the world can connect through Storii and they can upload memories all to be used for reminiscence.”
These memories can range from the likes of wedding photos; videos of grandchildren; photos from past holidays; audio recordings from close friends and family; or even photos of pets. The app also includes a direct search feature for YouTube, allowing the residents to listen to their favourite songs – whether that may range from The Beatles to Bach. These prompts are used to increase the engagement with those in the care home, and for the families to connect with their loved ones even if they live far away.
Graham is in his early twenties and fresh from university, having only graduated last year. His youth, however, must not be underestimated. He has the aura of an entrepreneur twenty years his senior, and has been in the field longer than one would expect.
“I made money, not from the websites, but because I was good at search engine optimisation.” he explained. “There was a point when I was higher than Microsoft for the search term ‘Xbox 360’. For 3 days I made about 3 or 4 grand just because I knew how to get people to my site”. Graham went on to make £10,000 before his 16th birthday.
Despite his early success, it was not only the technological world he wanted to conquer. Graham went to university to study economics and finance at Glasgow’s University of Strathclyde. He had dreams of being a stockbroker in London and attended various interviews, only to realise that this career-path fell short of his expectations. The fast paced, cut-throat lifestyle of the capital did not appeal.
I ask him if pursuing a career you love is important. He responds “What you do for a job isn’t your work, it’s literally your life. You’ll spend more time doing that than anything else.” He adds “I don’t want to be looking at spreadsheets everyday.”
Graham retreated to his home town of Glasgow, and had to quickly think of plan B. However, he did not have much time as life came crashing to a halt after he found himself in hospital. “I did the great Scottish run, but two days later I got kidney failure. I was told both my kidneys were failing drastically.”
“When I was in there [hospital], on my ward there was an older man with dementia who was struggling with where he was and interacting with the nurses. He was shouting out in the middle of the night.” Graham continued: “I thought it was really interesting when his granddaughter visited him. She showed him photos of his life and he calmed down – he was also reacting a lot better to his nurses. I was sitting there watching Netflix on my iPad and I just thought ‘Why can’t we use something like that in care’?”
This is where the initial StoriiCare seed was planted, and grew before he was certain that he wanted to initiate a business-strategy with the idea.
“I had no idea how to start a business! I just googled it!”. It took Graham a year to get joint funding from private investment and Scottish Enterprise. It wasn’t easy, and took him 3 months to apply for, all whilst studying for his undergraduate degree. “It was worth it because I got the grant”.
Creating a start-up on your own can prove to be an extremely testing and difficult experience. Businesses started in groups have a support network that can share any blame should anything go wrong. Graham decided to do it himself, knowing full responsibility would be his if any obstacles befell him. “In some ways I slightly regret it, however the benefits are that I am now the sole shareholder in the company”.
Graham eventually managed to lure a few interested parties that he would collaborate with in the start-up. He could not pay them at first, nor could he promise the business would succeed. Graham found that “hiring staff [was] really difficult, it takes a long time to get them and then you need to keep them”.
Graham attributes his success to three simple things: networking, pitching and mistakes. He advises anyone starting out with a business to overcome a fear of failure, as the experience provides a necessary learning curve. “Make lots of mistakes: don’t be afraid of making those mistakes.” He says “I’ve made so many. I wouldn’t know anything if I hadn’t made them.”
Forcing himself into doing things and situations out of his initial comfort zone turned out to be beneficial. “Go to networking events. Force yourself to do them.” he says. “If you’re bad at pitching, the only way to get good at it, is to do it more.” I ask how he became good at pitching: “I never said I was good at it! I got better at it by forcing myself into awkward situations. I’ve done 20 minute presentations to over a thousand people now. You just need to force yourself to do it. What’s the worst that can happen?”
Not only is StoriiCare an interactive platform for families and people with dementia, it benefits staff in care homes. “The staff are able to log their activities, so they have proof when they get inspected that they provide care. It gives care staff recognition”
StoriiCare is currently in 25 care homes in Scotland and is hoping to be in 100 in the next three months.
While touching on a sombre yet inevitable part of the process, StoriiCare keeps information after a user passes away. This means that the most meaningful and poignant songs/photographs can be collected and curated for a funeral, to avoid families frantically searching in a time of grief.
StoriiCare comes at a time when the national demographic shows that older people are living longer due to better care and advanced treatment options. Dementia had overtaken heart disease as the leading cause of death in England and Wales by 2016, and diagnostic rates are at an all time high across the UK. This is largely a result of improved healthcare, better standards of living, government incentives, a rise in awareness, as well as doctors being more proficient at diagnosing the degenerative disease. The rapidly increasing rate of dementia diagnosis predicates that, according to Scotland’s National Dementia Strategy, the number of people with dementia is expected to double between now and 2031.
This could mean that there will be not just a wave, but a Silver Tsunami of older people with dementia requiring care home placement in the future. The future older person will likely be tech-savvy –utilising smartphones and tablets, which the care sector must adapt to at the rate that society does. “What’s going to happen when our generation is all in care? We’re still going to be using our technology, and the next type of technology that comes out” Graham explains. “The care sector is quite slow in adopting new things. In terms of technology they’re just starting to wake up to it.”
Graham acknowledges that the care sector does not have the legislation to currently deal with people using personal technology in care homes. Graham hopes to be at the forefront of this revolution and change the way residents, staff and families are interacting with means of care-giving. “It’s a challenge, as sometimes we can go into a home and they can be really progressive and you’ll see the benefits straight away”. On the other hand, Graham has observed other care homes have been more reluctant to cooperate with technology because they have never been exposed to it. “The main thing is that we can save care homes a lot of money, and time. StoriiCare makes it easier for staff, better for families and improves quality of life for residents”.
To date, Graham has raised over a quarter of a million pounds towards Storii and StoriiCare. He has 11 full-time workers under his employ and his own office. Storii also has the recognition of being the first tech start-up to secure a place on We Are Future’s next Silicon Valley Accelerate Programme. He is hopeful that the company will relocate to California in the next 5 years.
Graham’s creation provides us with a glimpse of how the future of care homes could look, which is both exciting and comforting. Revamping the care system with new means of technology could mean that millennials are able to live with a little more comfort in the knowledge that someone is preparing for our digitally-reliant generation.