Introducing Re-unite, an app to find senior citizens who might have wandered away from their homes because of memory loss caused by Alzheimer’s or dementia. This is how it works.
“Many times we hear about cases of senior citizens with Alzheimer’s or dementia wandering off from their homes, to be found somewhere far away. In Pune alone we have helped reunite five senior citizens with their families, by doing whatever we could to help,” says 51-year-old Raja Narasimhan. After working in the corporate sector for 25 years, Raja took early retirement – he did not have any plans but he knew he wanted to do something for society in whatever way he could.
And, about two years ago, on the suggestion of some friends, he founded the Sare Jahan se Acha Foundation – an organization working on different positive and innovative projects, one of which is a helpline and call centre to help patients of dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Many people have contacted Raja already whenever such patients have gone missing.
“There are several houses in Pune in which senior citizens live alone or with some relatives, while their children work abroad. One day, we got a call from a couple in Boston, informing us that the woman’s father, who lives in Pune, had been missing since 1:30 in the morning,” says Raja. The family had come to know about Sare Jahan se Acha via a Facebook post that mentioned how the Foundation was helping locate lost dementia patients.
When Raja, along with some volunteers, reached the house, he found the man’s wife alone and worried. The team went out searching for her husband but had no clue as to where to look. The search continued the following day – by then a missing person report with the police had been filed as well. “The police officials were willing to help but even they had no idea about where to start. The senior citizen was a patient of diabetes and was in very bad shape. On seeing him wandering around, a Good Samaritan took him into his house and, after serving him some food, took him to a nearby hospital to seek help. Finally, with the help of watchmen from different apartment buildings and hospitals, we finally received information about him. He had foot sores and needed medical attention,” says Raja.
This was the third time Raja and his team had helped reunite a senior citizen with his/her family. So, the team sat down to think – could they perhaps use technology to help these people?
Could they build a platform that would help police officials and hospital authorities with at least some information so they weren’t left in the dark about what to do? Turns out, they could.
Three months on, they had developed an app called Re-unite to help find missing senior citizens. Today, this app can be used by local police authorities, government officials, hospitals, people who come across someone who is lost, and people who know someone who is lost.
The app has the following features:
• Report a lost person you came across: If you come across a person who appears to be lost, talk to the person to see if he/she needs help. You can then click a picture of the person and add details like the person’s name (if available), city, location, and information about any distinguishing and visible marks on the body. There is also an option to save all this information in a PDF or JPEG format and share it on social media platforms so that people can spread the word.
• Reporting a missing person: Follow the same steps if someone you know goes missing. You can add an existing picture of the person.
• Browse the database: You can find information about all missing people in the database.
• Search database: You can search the database by adding details of the person you are looking for or reporting about.
The developer of the app, Anand Hariharan, has also included some security features so that people cannot post any obscene photos using the app. A user has to register his/her email ID so a verification code can be sent.
According to Raja, the Foundation lacks adequate funds to market the app or spread the word about it. He wants more people to know about the app so they can download it if and when the need arises. Raja is also trying to draw the attention of police officials towards the app so they can start using it more often.
“The overall theme of Sare Jahan Se Acha Foundation is to spread goodness, which is present in all of us,” says Raja. He launched the Foundation with his own money and contributions from some Good Samaritans he knows. Other than working for the welfare of senior citizens, the Foundation members are also working on a Spit-Free India campaign, wherein they collect signatures from people who promise not to spit in public places. Additionally, they are collecting stories about the brave acts of martyrs from the defence forces and their families, with the intention of spreading the word about them.