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Saturday, January 22, 2022
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YMCA Uses Robots to Combat Alzheimer’s


YMCA Alzheimer's robot. | Image from nbc5

November, which is also Alzheimer’s Awareness month, has ended, but not before the YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas did something great for the community.  

According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 55 million people worldwide have dementia, and 10 million new cases are diagnosed every year.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia and may contribute to 60-70% of cases. The YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas has discovered a way to combat the illness.   

Studies have often shown that using technology, such as tablets and smartphones, and learning new skills, can significantly increase cognition in older adults. It has been shown to potentially lower the risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s, and the Dallas YMCA has capitalized on this.  

Dr. Tonjia Grimble is the senior project manager for the YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas, who wanted to give back to the community, especially during the month of Alzheimer’s awareness.

Using a tablet and robotic technology, she was able to teach a group of seniors at Park South YMCA how to operate rolling miniature robots from the Sphero company. 

The company’s educational products were originally intended for students from grades PK through 12 as a way to engage them in STEM subjects and computer science. However, the senior adult participants at the Park South YMCA also enjoy using these tools.

They are learning to operate these small robots by controlling them with an iPad, commanding them to do things such as synchronize them to music or make them draw.   

“As you get older it seems like you’re not supposed to have any more fun or your fun days are over but playing with these is awesome. We have a wonderful time with it,” said Larry Christopher, a participant in the program. “It’s fantastic. You get a chance to play with an object that’s not attached to anything, it has a mind of its own.”  

This is only the beginning for Tonjia Grimble. These classes were merely a test run, but she hopes to have more classes in the new year to continue the program.  

“I’m hoping that added element of excitement is just another layer that they can use to help them minimize their chances for Alzheimer’s and dementia,” Grimble said. “There’s tons more curriculum that we haven’t even taught them yet. What I’m hoping to do is invite more seniors and have more classes, so it allows them to stretch their legs a little bit on these activities. And maybe mix some of the kids with the adults and have a peer one-on-one kind of teaching.”    

For more information, call 214-880-9622 to ask about programs or click here 

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