Sarah Harrison (right) and Fiona Wright share a passion for story telling, film making and a desire to improve the lives of people living with dementia.
Sarah, who has a background in PR and helped care for her father after his Alzheimer's diagnosis, joined forces with Fiona, a health journalist and TV producer and together they've spent two years developing and testing the concept of tv entertainment for a dementia audience. They've discovered many common themes enjoyed by people living with the later stages of the condition, and developed ways to overcome visual and audio challenges that often create a barrier to dementia patients enjoying TV.
The inspiration behind Recognii
As with many innovative products the idea for Recognii was born out of necessity. Co-founder Sarah Harrison explains:
"My dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2015. He had always been very chatty and interested in people and the world around him but as the disease progressed, he became less and less engaged and increasingly unable to enjoy conversation, books and puzzles or even follow his favourite television programmes. Left to his own devices he would spend hours sat simply staring into space.
Desperate to hear him laugh and connect with us again I searched the internet for visual entertainment for people with later-stage dementia. I was surprised to find that apart from some nature films aimed at reducing anxiety there was very little out there.
Like many people helping to care for someone with dementia I turned to children’s television, feeling instinctively that the simple format, cheerful music and bright colours would have greater appeal. This was slightly more successful, but it felt uncomfortably demeaning and the childish subject matter didn’t reflect a lifetime of adult experience. I thought it was a shame there wasn’t something that brought together easy to follow, relevant, grown-up content that combined all the elements he enjoyed with well-known songs and music.
It was only after chatting to other carers and discovering many common themes both in the challenge of finding appropriate viewing material and the type of content enjoyed, that the idea for Recognii began to take shape.
I got lucky. My friend Fiona Wright, a health journalist and TV producer was looking for a new creative challenge. When I outlined the idea for a new concept in televisual entertainment for people with dementia she got it immediately and jumped onboard.
We spent the next two years developing and testing both the concept and content and then adapting it carefully to overcome the common visual problems that can be often experienced by people with dementia.
We were delighted with the end result and even more delighted with the overwhelmingly positive feedback we received from viewers. My dad loved the young children, animals and puppets and the unexpected comic scenes and silly sound effects had the ability to make him roar with laughter.
Sadly my dad passed away last year, but I know he would be pleased he was the inspiration behind Recognii.
We believe everyone has the right to laugh and be entertained. Our hope is that other filmmakers will now join us in developing a much-needed new genre of television for this deserving audience."