Virtual reality app for people living with dementia

Well-known Melbourne-based performer and journalist Mandy Salomon has designed an app for people living with mid-to-later stage dementia, drawing inspiration from the world of virtual reality.

Ms Salomon, a senior researcher at the Smart Services Co-operative Research Centre (CRC) who is doing her PhD at Swinburne University of Technology, has for some years been working on a project called Applying Virtual Environments for Dementia Care (AVED), which uses virtual reality to help dementia patients living in aged care facilities.

AVED is a pilot prototype of an interactive, tablet-based, 3D environment that includes familiar places such as a sitting room, kitchen and garden. “They can decorate their virtual rooms using colours, fabric swatches and paintings or drag their favourite photos into wall frames,” she said.

The prototype has been built by a team of former and current Swinburne students led by PhD students James Bonner and Norman Wang, who were also involved in the design of the gaming technology used for the Virtual Dementia Experience at Alzheimer’s Australia Victoria's Perc Walkley Dementia Learning Centre in Parkville, which won the educational category award at the national iAwards last month.

The Perc Walkley Centre aims to use serious game technology to transform dementia care education.

For AVED, Ms Salomon looked at a number of factors including how the residents ‘experienced’ the activity, the interactions they undertook and if using the app provoked reflection about themselves and the world.

Mr Bonner said the team closely observed aged care residents using the app. “[We] found that when we revisit, they remember us and the application, which, given their condition, is quite profound,” he said. “It makes us feel fantastic.”

Ms Salomon is travelling to Scotland next month to present her findings from AVED at the Alzheimer's Europe Conference and the IdeasLab 2014, hosted by the University of Stirling.

Posted in Aged Care

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