Committed to Memory

UCC and IGNITE alumni Amy Boyden and Niamh Murray are the founders of ForgetMeNot, an app that uses reminiscence therapy to improve communication for those living with dementia. Here, Amy and Niamh share the deeply personal motivations behind the app and how it is already changing lives. In conversation with Jane Haynes.

22 Jun 2023

Iconic duos have been at the heart of some of the world’s most impactful inventions – look no further than Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. When you think of the stories of Apple, Microsoft, Wells Fargo – even Ben & Jerry’s – it’s clear that some people are just destined to meet and achieve great things together. Amy Boyden and Niamh Murray are one such duo.

Amy, from Bantry, and Offaly woman Niamh are the founders of ForgetMeNot, a mobile app that acts as a personalised and bespoke digital memory book for people living with dementia. Built upon the concept of reminiscence therapy – a form of treatment that uses the senses to help individuals with dementia to remember people, places and events from their past – ForgetMeNot has been created to aid communication between loved ones, carers and those living with dementia through the use of photos, music and voice recordings.

When you meet Amy and Niamh, their passion for their business is immediately clear; and when you hear the origin story of ForgetMeNot, it’s not hard to see why. Having met at an Enactus event as UCC students (Amy studied Law; Niamh – Business and Law), the pair learned that they had more than classes and an interest in social entrepreneurship in common – both had experienced what it was like to lose a loved one to dementia. Amy lost her stepmother, Ellen, to Alzheimer’s, and both of Niamh’s grandmothers, Kitty and the late Margaret, were diagnosed with dementia.

Recalling how the idea for ForgetMeNot came to be, Amy explains: "We had both seen the problem of communicating with loved ones with a form of dementia.

"I was a teenager when my stepmum was diagnosed, and I was figuring out how to get through that and comfort my siblings.

"The way I found best to communicate was through storytelling – talking about the past, looking through photo albums and books. One of the last times I saw her, she would repeat the same story; and even though she would get lost on her way home, she remembered that it was my birthday in two weeks, and she had a book for me."

ForgetMeNot incorporates photos, music, and voice recordings to create a bespoke digital memory book.

For Niamh, that storytelling element was just as important as her family supported her grandmother, Margaret, through her illness. Niamh discovered the power of reminiscence therapy during that time, both with Margaret – who passed away two years ago – and Kitty.

"A huge thing for me has been to use music and photos to create conversation with my grandmothers," says Niamh.

"My nana loved looking at photos from her childhood, and even discussing her childhood; and once we sparked that conversation, she could tell us who she went to school with, who she walked to school with, who all the teachers were – but yet she might not know exactly where she is in that moment."

Having experienced the difficulties associated with communicating with a loved one with dementia, Amy and Niamh joined forces to create a platform that would bring the power of reminiscence therapy to the hands of those most affected.

After initially considering the logistics of a physical memory book, the duo opted for an app. They say it was particularly important for the product to incorporate music, given Niamh’s experience with her grandmothers.

"Music was so powerful for us. I would always sing The Banks of My Own Lovely Lee with my Nana Kitty, and she would know the tune better than I did," Niamh explains.

"Coming towards the end of my grandmother Margaret’s illness, she became non-verbal; but I would sing The Town I Left Behind – about where she grew up in Banagher – and I have videos of her singing along and mumbling the words with me. It was just mad that she couldn’t make conversation but there was this little part of her brain that remembered this."

Amy and Niamh got to work building their platform. Having previously participated in UCC IGNITE’s Start-Up Lab, a short programme for aspiring start-up founders, they decided to go to the next level with the flagship IGNITE start-up incubation programme in 2022. The experience, they say, was invaluable.

"We had already launched the app, but there was so much gusto about the development side of things that we needed to keep the sales, customer onboarding and promotion going, too. IGNITE really helped us to focus on that and put a drive on things like our business models and marketing," says Niamh.

Amy and Niamh chose the symbol of the forget-me-not flower to illustrate their belief of how, with the help of others, a person with dementia can 'prosper and grow'.

The pair have a fantastic working relationship which, they agree, has helped them to push through some of the tougher moments of start-up life – although, thankfully, there have been more peaks than troughs.

"One of the high points, for me, was last August," recalls Amy. "We FaceTimed each other and announced to social media together that we had launched the ForgetMeNot platform. It was such a massive milestone, because we’ve been working on it for years."

Niamh adds that the feedback from the testing of their prototype among the three different users – carers, loved ones, and people with dementia – is right up there among the most memorable moments for her.

"We had a few of them saying 'we’ve been waiting for something like this'. Seeing their reaction was so emotional. I remember coming off some of the calls thinking, 'oh my God, this platform is actually going to make a difference'," says Niamh.

And hearing first-hand of the impact that ForgetMeNot has already had, has been a turning point for the founders.

"People say to us 'I wish I’d had this', and that’s something that sticks because, for me – I wish I had had this," says Amy.

"And from our perspective," adds Niamh, "seeing the reaction amongst caregivers and people involved in dementia work … You can see the value it’s going to have in dementia care, which is something we always wanted to achieve. We wanted to give a new approach to communication, for people to acknowledge that there is a way to communicate."

The duo is now concentrating on the next phase for the app and business, focusing on building the platform out further for iOS as well as doing more customer onboarding through Android. Community care is a key driver for them, and while they will continue to work on the community care aspect, they are also exploring how ForgetMeNot can be used in a clinical setting and aiming to roll it out more broadly in Ireland and the UK by the end of 2024.

With the future looking bright for ForgetMeNot, Amy and Niamh don’t take their journey for granted. On the advice that they would give to aspiring fellow entrepreneurs, Amy says: "If you fail, keep failing until you don’t fail. The amount of times Niamh and I brushed the dust off our knees and got up and went at it again … Just don’t give up."


For more information on the UCC IGNITE Programme, visit the dedicated website.

Photography: Provision

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