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Innovation Design Engineering (MA/MSc)

Christina Lin

Christina is passionate about accessibility, sustainability and tech. With interests spanning entrepreneurship, user experience and programming, Christina aims to combine design, engineering and project management to create innovations that bring value to our society. Christina is currently pursuing a double masters in Innovation Design Engineering (MSc/MA) from Imperial College London and the Royal College of Art. She has a background in architectural design, with a bachelor's degree from The Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL.

Her practice is highly interdisciplinary and collaborative, aiming to weave together the necessary parts to create innovation.

Show Location: Kensington campus: Darwin Building, Lower ground floor

Christina Lin-statement

According to the United Nations, the population over 60 is expected to double by 2050. In line with this shift, cases of dementia are projected to rise sharply in the next few decades, reaching 153 million by 2050. Despite the current outlook, research shows that 4 out of 10 cases of dementia may be prevented. This project was an exploration on how we can bring dementia prevention into the daily lives of retirees over 45.

Neurawell is an app and a home assistant giving people a new dimension of control over dementia prevention. Appreciating the complexities and differences in the lives of retirees, Neurawell is not a one-size-fits-all solution, but a tool aiming to empower and enrich lifestyles post-retirement, leveraging a wellness objective that can include and benefit everyone. Neurawell places individualisation, sense of purpose, and joy for life, at the heart of its solution, aiming for a meaningful and seamless experience that has the potential to be implemented in people’s daily lives in the long term.

Neurawell, media item 1

Neurawell is an app and a home assistant providing a new dimension of control over dementia prevention.

Through cognitive monitoring and optimising, Neurawell empowers lifestyles for more resilient brains.

The context, media item 1

Dementia is an umbrella term for the ongoing deterioration of the brain, affecting cognitive abilities like memory, thinking, behaviour, and personality. Dementia is a terminal condition.

Dementia is most commonly caused by Alzheimer’s Disease, followed by vascular dementia. Risk factors include non-modifiable factors such as age, and modifiable facts such as lifestyle.

The outlook, media item 1

Given our ageing populations, dementia incidence is projected to drastically increase, surpassing 150 million cases worldwide by 2050. The UK currently has over 900,000 cases of dementia, and the total cost of care is £34 billion per year. In the next two decades, the number of cases will double and the cost of care triple. We need to reduce the incidence of dementia.

The opportunity, media item 1

What can we do to curb these projections? Research shows that we can reduce the incidence of dementia. Contrary to popular belief, dementia is not inevitable, nor is it a natural part of ageing. Indeed, approximately 4 out of 10 cases can be prevented. Prevention can be approached through a reduction in exposure to risk factors, or an increase in our protection against brain injury.

The process: Users, media item 1

The project followed a human-centred design methodology. I worked closely with retirees over the age of 45, engaging with them through focus groups, interviews, ethnography, and various user tests. Engaging with the people I was designing for allowed me to identify the biggest issue for my users, which was the fact that mental stimulation drastically decreased in retirement, as people adopted repetitive and menial lifestyles, leaving them at greater risk of developing dementia. The solution was also reached through the insights I gathered in my user research; I found that my users needed individuality, enjoyment, and a sense of purpose.

The process: Solution, media item 1
The process: Solution, media item 2

The prevention mechanism with the highest potential for impact and long-term engagement was to increase our brain resilience. This can be done through cognitive reserve.

Cognitive reserve is our brain’s reserve of thinking abilities. It is the ability to find alternate ways to achieve a task, thus allowing the brain to adapt to brain injury which would normally lead to dementia. Cognitive reserve is built up through lifestyle experiences such as education, occupation, and leisure-time activities.

The higher our cognitive reserve, the greater our protection against dementia. Studies have shown that a high cognitive reserve reduces our risk of dementia by up to 62%. Cognitive reserve is highest during adulthood, however, it is often lost post-retirement due to changes in lifestyle. 

Cognitive reserve can be measured and optimised with the Cognitive Reserve Index (CRIq) method. The algorithm, created in collaboration with experts, designed to increase our brain resilience through cognitive reserve. NLP provides a seamless lifestyle monitoring experience, and reinforcement learning ensures optimal activity suggestions.

The solution, media item 1
The solution, media item 2
The solution, media item 3

Neurawell provides a new dimension of control over your risk of developing dementia. Through an app and a home assistant, Neurawell allows you to monitor and improve your brain’s resilience through life experiences such as education and hobbies. The app leverages the sense of purpose of community, and allows you to work on your brain resilience individually, or together with friends and family.

The impact, media item 1
The impact, media item 2

What could we achieve with Neurawell? On a personal scale, by engaging with Neurawell for a year, you could see an increase in your cognitive reserve of approximately 6%. Achieving a high reserve could reduce your risk of dementia by up to 62%. On a societal scale, globally, we could help reduce up to 61.2 million cases of dementia by 2050. In the UK, we could help reduce 400,000 cases of dementia in the next two decades, and help reduce annual cost of care by £37.6 billion.

Contact, media item 1

Special thanks to the IDE2 tutors Audrey Gaulard and Dr Elena Dieckmann, IDE Heads of Programme Prof Gareth Loudon and Stephen Green, the experts and participants who collaborated with me, and my IDE peers.