14 Year Old Programmer is Developing Social Media App for Alzheimer’s Patients


Orange County, CA - February 15th, 2018 -  According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States. More than 5 million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer’s, a number estimated to reach upwards of 16 million by the year 2050. Despite the breadth of this disease, few mobile applications are available to patients requiring aid in their daily lives. Emma Yang is a New York-based 14-year-old coder and app developer with personal motivations to create such applications for patients’ with memory loss associated with neurodegeneration.

Because Emma’s grandmother is currently living with Alzheimer’s, she has “firsthand experience with how the disease can affect the patient as well as surrounding family and friends.” Her interest in using technology for improving lives of people around the world stemmed from the young age of 11 or 12. Emma recalls seeing “a lot of things about how AI and facial recognition were really evolving and being applied in more and more areas, especially healthcare.” In partnering with mentors at the tech company Kairos, the developers of the facial recognition software used by the Timeless app, she began her first coding endeavor for the iPhone.

14 Year Old Programmer is Developing Social Media App for Alzheimer’s Patients

Timeless is a user-friendly mobile app for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients with four key elements: a photobook, a photo phone list, event reminders, and an AI facial recognition camera. Managed by the patient’s caregiver, Timeless can be accessed with Touch ID or Face ID software- eliminating the need for passwords. Patients’ friends and family can submit photos to the app that will appear in the user’s “Updates” section. Each photo is automatically tagged- using the AI facial recognition software- with the subject’s name and relationship to the patient. Under the “Contact” section in the app, patients can scroll through a photo phone book to choose the person they’d like to call rather than scrolling for a phone number. Lastly, under the “Identify” section, patients can use their phone’s camera to identify a person standing in the same room as them using facial recognition data gathered from the photos submitted in the app.

Still in the first phase of development, Yang’s team is currently seeking to raise $50,000 through crowd funding on the popular site Indiegogo. Yang hopes to accelerate data collection in Timeless and utilize the app as a research platform- tracking and recording memory changes, eye movements, and the user’s navigational skills. Once the fundraising goal has been met, Yang hopes to advance to patient app testing.

Katherine Possin, an associate professor at the UCSF Memory and Aging Center, believes this app will be successful and will support the strengthening of patients’ memories. “I think it can be very helpful for patients to rehearse memories that are important to them–having a chance to rehearse that can strengthen those memories and [increase resilience] in the face of the disease.


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