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Experiencing Dementia in Virtual Reality

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Virtual reality may not yet offer a cure for dementia, but it's letting ordinary people experience what it's like to live with the disease.People with dementia often experience memory impairment while other symptoms include hallucinations and delusions. The condition is difficult for non-sufferers to picture, but ordinary people can now get some insight into dementia, with the help of virtual-reality technology.Medical and nursing professionals who work with people with dementia gathered in Nagoya last month to get a deeper understanding of the disease. When participants put on a headset and headphones, they stepped into the world of dementia.In one scenario, participants wake up on a train and they don't know where they are. They have to transfer, but don't remember where to do that.The device offers a 360-degree view, making the simulation more realistic."I felt even more uncomfortable because I could actually look around at my surroundings," said one participant.Tomofumi Tanno, who is in his 40s and has early-onset Alzheimer's, also tried the device."I have had similar experiences many times. I have to change trains on my way to work, but I was totally at a loss what to do one day. I burst into tears and begged for help from a station employee," he says.Tadamichi Shimogawara organizes and promotes the initiative. He runs homes for the elderly and has met a number of people with dementia. His experiences made him want to help deepen the public's understanding.That's when he came up with the idea of using virtual reality technology. He set up a new division within his company in March last year. Staff who used to design housing for the elderly had to learn how to edit and produce videos from scratch.

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