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[How Virtual Reality Can Help Seniors With Dementia]

21
May 2019

How Virtual Reality Can Help Seniors With Dementia

Using virtual reality (VR) technology to improve health has several applications, including bettering the quality of life for people with dementia.

A recent study shows how VR can help even those with advanced dementia disease like Alzheimer’s disease.

The research was led by Dr. Chee Siang (Jim) Ang, a senior lecturer from University of Kent, and used VR devices on eight patients who were retained in a psychiatric facility.

These patients, who had a mean age of 69 years, all live with dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease and Huntington’s disease. The report was published this month in Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems.

What the study found

A workshop with clinicians was conducted to select appropriate environments that would be calming.

Each participant used a VR headset to visit five virtual locations. These included a countryside, a sandy beach, a rocky beach, a cathedral, and a forest. The patients got to choose their environment on their own.

The team monitored multiple 15-minute VR sessions and reviewed feedback from patients and their caregivers. Some patients wanted to be in one environment repeatedly, while others wanted to explore more.

Ang’s team reported that VR helped the participants recall old memories. It did that by offering new stimuli that they could otherwise not attain due to illness or inaccessibility.

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