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Virtual reality and the fight against dementia

Blog post 3 December 2017

In the midst of all the issues of politics and money, misery and gloom, you can always guarantee there will be a ray of sunshine shining somewhere in the care industry.

In another life I’d have been a technology guru, perhaps a computer wizard that could perform feats worthy of the pages of a Harry Potter novel. But it wasn’t to be.

However, I do find it fascinating that good technology and clever computing is gaining more popularity in helping to deliver social care.

I’ve discovered that virtual reality is now helping the elderly to rekindle fading memories of bygone days. How lovely is that! And more and more care providers are buying in to the experience for residents and as a tool for staff training.

Most of us think of VR as ‘goggles’ loaded with gaming programmes. But now these clever bits of kit, that can give the user a 360-degree representation, are becoming therapy tools.

The view experienced by the headset wearer can also be displayed on a tablet, so carers and family can share and chat about the content.

VRs can be tailored to residents’ requirements and a walk down Memory Lane for memory-loss residents is proving a popular way of firing dim memories. ‘Out there’ can suddenly be realised without moving out of a chair.

Not surprisingly, Alzheimer’s Research UK has developed a VR app to help carers ‘experience’ the symptoms of dementia by presenting everyday situations through the eyes and mind of a sufferer, simulating the anxieties, effects of short-term memory loss and the difficulties comprehending the sights and sounds of the environment.

Dementia is a thief of memories (and many other things) . . . in this fight technology may not provide a cure, but if it helps recall happier days a little longer, it surely can be medicine enough for the moment.