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A specialist toolkit called The Fidget Widget®, developed by the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), and the Alzheimer’s Society, which helps people with dementia has gone on national sale.

The innovative toolkit was the brainchild of Judith Bower, Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Adviser, and Jane Souyave, Senior Graphic Design Lecturer at UCLan.

Jane and Judith had researched and developed the Toolkit following extensive market research and recognising there was a gap in the care market for a product that could help carers and people with dementia.

Judith Bower said: “Carers often described fidgeting as a negative and disruptive behaviour. We wanted to create something that would tackle this idea, while, at the same time, creating something engaging that people with dementia could benefit from.”

The specially designed widgets which will be brought to market by Active Minds, use touch, feel and repetitive movements, each with a particular motion; spin, slide, twist, turn and roll, and are intended to be unrecognisable, removing any need to rely on memory or words to use them.

Jane Souyave added: “In collaboration with the Alzheimer’s Society and Active Minds, the Fidget Widget Toolkit is the result of eight years of research and development and provides an opportunity for those with advanced dementia to be engaged in meaningful activities that enhance personal wellbeing.

“The results of our product testing, in people’s own homes, day centres and Lancashire County Council care homes, confirm that the toolkit supports psychological needs. Users feel occupied, engaged and included in a meaningful activity of their choice. Caregivers also reported that there was an ongoing and lasting well-being effect.”

The team was supported with funding from the Alzheimer’s Society and UCLan’s Innovation and Enterprise team through its Ideas Investment Fund, which provides up to £20,000 in funding to support university staff to collaborate with external companies to create or validate new products, services or processes. The Innovation and Enterprise team also provided Judith and Jane with support on commercialisation and intellectual property.

Carol Benabda, a Dementia Support Worker who has worked with people affected by dementia engaging with the Toolkit said: “It was very much a wow moment, big smiles on faces. A lady with dementia immediately began to interact and engage with the Fidget Widgets – she was laughing with a big smile on her face and spent a long time exploring the tools.

“The family of a lady told us that when they collected her from the day centre at the end of the day often she was cross but when she had spent some time using the tool she was different. She was happy, and it lasted throughout the evening.”

Ben Atkinson-Willes Founder and CEO of Active Minds concluded: “We are delighted to be partnering with the Alzheimer’s Society and UCLan to bring the Fidget Widget to market. Active Minds has spent the past eight years creating products to make people with dementia feel valued and included.

“As it is often those with moderate and advanced dementia that are harder to reach, we are excited to now be able to offer more to those customers. We have already secured pre-orders from care groups and international partners as many have recognised this meets a need for those with more advanced dementia.”

The full Fidget Widget Toolkit is available at alzheimers.org.uk/shop priced at £59.99 for the complete kit of five tools, or you can buy each tool for £12.98 each.

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