Virtual reality is helping families cope with dementia

Harriet Marsden@harriet1marsden
Wednesday 01 February 2017 15:45
news
(Kickstarter / Screeengrab)

One innovative Kickstarter project aims to use Virtual Reality to help Alzheimer's patients.

The 'WAYBACK' Project was launched in January 2017, by a group of people who had witnessed the destructive effects of Alzheimer's firsthand, among their own family and friends.

Alzheimer's disease, the most common form of dementia, costs the UK more than cancer or lung disease combined.

A neurodegenerative condition with no known cure, there are half a million sufferers in the UK alone - a number which is set to rise drastically in the future.

As the disease affects short term memory and impairs recognition of family and friends, the project members were inspired to try and harness the power of new technology in order to improve quality of life, using Virtual Reality.

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The project aims to create a series of virtual reality 'films' that recreate the past, using period-appropriate costumes, props, music, fashion and location.

As music and sound are particularly crucial in triggering memory, the idea is that the films will help evoke a sense of comfort and happiness, thus improving mental and emotional wellbeing.

In their pilot episode, they plan to recreate the Queen's coronation in 1953, "a moment firmly in the UK's national conscience" for those aged 70 and over.

Long term, they hope to be able to establish a Virtual Reality memory database.

Our aim is for THE WAYBACK to become a series of Virtual Reality memory films from each decade freely available to people and families living and dealing with dementia.

The films would be between three and five minutes long, and can be viewed through any smartphone or available through YouTube's VR platform, using just a pair of Google Cardboard VR Goggles (£2-3).

However, hiring a location is expensive, not to mention camera equipment and an art department.

The Kickstarter fundraising goal is set at £35,000, but in just a few days people have pledged more than £10,000.

“We are all made up of our emotional memories. As we experience dementia we are at risk of our world seeming to shrink inwards," said Dr. David Sheard, founder of Demential Care Matters and consultant on Channel 4's award-winning series Dementiaville.

"Anything in dementia care that offers the opportunity to connect and be reached is strongly welcomed."

All we have is the present - but recalling the past is one of the ways we can create new positive moments for people living with dementia. THE WAYBACK PROJECT is special because it will help connect people to the past - using the wonders of new technology today.

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