by Alex Salinas (B.A. ’11)
Inspiration can come from unexpected places.
For Malak Abouhenidi (M.S. ’14), it was from reading a novel titled Before I Go to Sleep, a psychological thriller about a woman suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. While she doesn’t know anyone suffering from the disease, Abouhenidi was moved.
“My curiosity was piqued, so I researched the disease and the needs of people who have it,” she said. “A question popped into my mind: How could everyday technology better serve them?”
Alzheimer’s is an incurable neurodegenerative disorder that affects memory and eventually leads to death. To help patients, Abouhenidi chose cell phones — almost everyone has one — as her platform and began creating a mobile application as a project for her Master of Computer Science degree, which she completed in December 2014. Her goal: build an app that would help people living with early stages of Alzheimer’s perform daily tasks and routines.
The “Live Happy” app lets users or their caregivers create a profile and navigate a menu that can include scheduling medications, appointments, meals, exercise and even quiet time. For that category, users can include a list of their favorite books and songs. Users are reminded by on-screen prompts to perform the scheduled activity.
They can also access Google Maps and a phone contacts list, where they match a name and photo of the person they wish to call to help them recognize people they know.
For professional feedback, Abouhenidi contacted the San Antonio Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association and provided them her prototype of Live Happy.
“They asked if I worked with people with Alzheimer’s or if I have a family member who has it. The answer for all of that was, ‘I just read a book that inspired me,’ ” she said.
Abouhenidi’s free app will be available for Android devices on Google Play this year after final testing is complete. She is also working to make it available in Apple’s App Store in the near future.