For the Love of Jean - the passion behind the work of Emmetros

Jean Hinton

Until she was 13 years old, Mary Pat Hinton spent most weekends with her grandmother Jean in Saskatchewan. They would play cards, watch Hockey Night in Canada every Saturday night, and attend church together on Sunday mornings. In the evenings, Jean would tell Mary Pat stories about growing up on a Saskatchewan farm and what life was like living through First and Second World Wars and the Dirty Thirties.

Then everything changed. Jean was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. As her memory faded, so too did the stories. Eventually, she no longer recognized her granddaughter when she came to visit. When Jean was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in the early 1980s, there were no memory clinics or dementia-friendly communities. And there was certainly no pressure to develop a national dementia strategy to assist individuals and family members coping with the disease. With very little support in place for independent living, people with Alzheimer’s disease, like Jean, found themselves living out their remaining days in long-term care facilities.

Combining research and technology to help people with dementia

Three decades after Jean made her move into long-term care, Mary Pat made the bold move into entrepreneurship, determined to put the experience she’d gained in usability and information design at BlackBerry, and her fond memories of Jean, to work to help people living with dementia achieve a better quality of life.

Observing firsthand how technology enabled people with different types of physical and cognitive impairments to communicate confidently with others, Mary Pat began to think she could do something similar for people living with dementia.

In 2014, Mary Pat founded Emmetros, a company dedicated to making it easier for people with cognitive impairments to live independently and with dignity. Three years later, Emmetros is set to launch its first product. MemorySparx, a digital memory aid, is tested with people living with memory loss and carefully designed to meet their needs. Mary Pat’s hope is that MemorySparx will empower people with dementia to speak with confidence at medical appointments, day programs, and social engagements. In the future, MemorySparx will adapt to meet the needs of people with dementia as their abilities decline.

Better together

As they develop products, Mary Pat and her team are fully committed to including people with dementia in many aspects of the business, including design, testing, and commercialization. How Emmetros engages people with dementia matters to Mary Pat. It matters so much that Emmetros is currently partnering with Applied Health Sciences (AHS) and Murray Alzheimer Research and Education Program (MAREP) at the University of Waterloo and the Ontario Dementia Advisory Group (ODAG) to inform best practices for engaging people with dementia respectfully and meaningfully in technology development.

In the past year, Mary Pat has been invited to present to the Governor General of Canada, pitch to the Golden Triangle Angel Network (GTAN), and compete in the highly competitive Fierce Founders Bootcamp held at Communitech. Emmetros has also received $30,000 in AC JumpStart funding through the Accelerator Center (AC), a grant made possible by FedDev Ontario.

As she watched her grandmother decline, Mary Pat lamented her inability to help. She was frustrated by a system that failed to support Jean’s needs and a lack of tools and resources to help her live her remaining years more fully. Years later, Mary Pat Hinton is determined to honor her grandmother’s memory and build a business focused on helping people with dementia – and the family members who love them – live well.