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Virtual reality app gives an insight into living with dementia

June 7, 2016

A smartphone app aims to give people a better understanding of what it is like to live with dementia.

Alzheimer’s Research UK has turned to virtual reality in its campaign to raise awareness of the condition by developing a device called A Walk Through Dementia.

The new programme, which can be downloaded from the Google Play store or bought as a Google Cardboard headset, shows what living with the neurological condition is like.

It aims to raise awareness of the fact that dementia is more than memory loss, but can also cause misperceptions, blind-spots, problems with navigation, following instructions, and co-ordination.

The app uses everyday scenarios such as going to the shops and has been created with input from people with the condition.

Hilary Evans, chief executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “Dementia is commonly misunderstood, so A Walk Through Dementia is designed to offer the public a clearer picture of the challenges that people living with the condition face in everyday life.

“The app also gives a poignant insight into the emotional impact of symptoms, an element that people with dementia told us was important to achieve.

“Although each person with dementia experiences the condition differently, and it would be hard to recreate the full range of complex symptoms, harnessing new technology like virtual reality helps us engage people with the impact of dementia on a new level.”

It has been welcomed by other experts in the field. “We will increasingly be asked for help by people with dementia, and having had some insight into what may be happening for them will improve how we can help,” said Tula Brannelly from the University of Southampton.

The program has been voiced by the actress Dame Harriet Walter and features an introduction by the newsreader Jon Snow, both of whom have lost close relatives to dementia.

Mr Snow, whose mother died from Alzheimer’s, said: “Technology like VR can really transport someone to a different place, time or even give them a sense of what it’s like to live as someone else. I hope [it] will help create some empathy for people living with the condition.”


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