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Texas teens develop app to help Alzheimer's patients

Vedant Tapiavala and Rithvik Ganesh spent more than three years developing an app to combat memory loss.

DALLAS — Sixteen-year-old Vedant Tapiavala, a senior at the Dallas School for the Talented and Gifted, isn’t really a fan of oldies music.

His good friend, 17-year-old Plano West senior Rithvik Ganesh, wasn’t either.

And yet, both have spent the past few years listening to songs made more than 30 years ago in order to fight Alzheimer’s.

“I believe everybody has that duty to contribute to society,” Tapiavala said. “At what age depends on the person.”

Tapiavala and Ganesh met in elementary school.

Growing up, both spent time working with Alzheimer’s patients.

“We both learned there was a lack of individualized activities for seniors in these centers,” Ganesh said.

They wanted to help, but at the time Tapiavala was just 12 and Ganesh was 14.

They weren’t nearly old enough to have a medical license, but they did have a computer.

“We saw the problem and we knew that we had the skills to address it,” Ganesh said.

So three years ago they started making an app.

Because of covid, they haven’t even seen each other in nearly two years. They’ve done most of their work virtually.

After getting input from doctors and caregivers, they came up with the AlzBuddy App.

It’s filled with games, pictures and all that oldies music. They listened to hundreds of songs from the 1940s to the 1980s before adding them to the app.

Every activity is meant to challenge patients to remember.

It’s not a cure, but they do hope it provides a spark.

“It might trigger memories, might help them reminisce,” said Tapiavala.

“That helps them remember who they are,” Ganesh said.

“It creates such hope and encouragement for them knowing that young people care like this,” said Kathy Shockley.

Shockley is the director of programs and services for the Dallas and North Texas Alzheimer’s Association.

She says the app is already making a difference.

It was released in July and so far has nearly 2,000 downloads from almost 30 nursing homes around the world.

“It just exploded way beyond anything we could have imagined,” said Ganesh.

“I don’t think ever of us thought about how much of an impact we could make,” Tapiavala said. “We just wanted to make one.”

The app is free. It won’t make them a dime, but it has given them a rich perspective.

“There is no better emotion than the emotion you feel when you help someone else,” Tapiavala said.

Take it from the kids hard-wired for kindness.