Virtual Reality to help people with Dementia – Case Study

Virtual Reality has already been used to alleviate symptoms of Alzheimer’s and Dementia in people for quite some time. The ability to take them back to memories they still have (albeit locked somewhere inside their minds) allows them to experience familiar scenes and regain some sense of normality, even if just for a short time.

The following testimonial was written by a long-term care facility employee, who tried VR with some of the residents with very impressive results:

“From the first time I tried it, I recognised the capacity of spherical video to offer something special to the residents of the dementia care home where I work. These are people who's ability to simply get outside or go to new and interesting places is severely curtailed. The home organises regular trips out but many residents are not able to attend and the logistics of such trips mean they are not frequent.

I had bought myself a simple VR viewer headset, which I was using with my terribly suited iPhone 5s; with its very small screen and comparatively low resolution, my phone did not lend itself well to viewing spherical video. Yet despite this, when I brought the headset in to work to try this technology out with the residents there, I was heartened by the results.

Even with this low-grade set up several of the residents seemed to really enjoy the experience. I showed them some nice relaxing videos of a jungle, a beach, a coral dive and a sandy savanna with playful tigers roaming nearby. Prior to placing the headset on each resident, I explained that it was similar to the old stereo-scope viewers that were popular in the 1950's; this was a point of reference that these people in their 70's and 80' could understand. I remember being utterly amazed by the 3D photographs of Disneyworld and of Guernsey and other picturesque locations in the little red viewer with the dial-like inserts that my grandad showed me when I was young. It always seemed to me like 3D spherical video was the natural evolution of this old, simple technology.

Of course, the videos are not suitable for all dementia patients; there is a broad range to the disease (which is a catch-all term for various degenerative brain disorders) and I would not seek to use the tech with people who are unable to consent or who are likely to be too confused by the experience for it to be of any benefit. But there are certainly many thousands of house-bound or otherwise disadvantaged elderly people who could comfortably use this technology to give them a taste of life in a way which has become prohibitively difficult. To simply go somewhere different, somewhere exotic.

From my observations, this tech has great potential to give back a sense of freedom and wonder to people who have such difficulty in their lives. I can't wait to see what they make of a higher grade VR experience, with a better screen, more comfortable headset, and better content, I'm quite sure there is a future for 3D spherical video in the care of the elderly.”

The use of Virtual Reality to help people with Dementia is widely being discussed in the academia and researchers keep trying new techniques to invoke memories and trigger behaviors, which may have been locked away. (see here )

We believe that with the improvement of Virtual Reality Cameras, the entry of more VR headsets to the market, Virtual Reality will be used more and more for various therapeutic purposes.