virtual reality (VR) therapy at Signature

Reminiscence therapy is a common practice for those who have conditions that affect their memory and for those with dementia, this includes a stimulating practice of conversation and engagement in remembering the past of a residents early adulthood or childhood, often through photos.

However, a new advancement called Virtual Reality therapy can help those with dementia and Alzheimer’s by allowing them to step into a space that can activate recollections of a times, activities and experiences from their past.

The immersive experience helps participants to socialise in their daily lives, and in the future VR may offer another way for residents to combat loneliness or isolation by opening  up residents’ minds and encouraging them to share experiences with others with similar experiences. Photos and videos from the past are a very effective aid because it’s easier to see recollections and talk about how they felt when memorable events were actually happening, both now and then.

This practice also helps boost confidence because residents may be able to move forward and recall some memories independently.

It’s more than visual/virtual

This experience is intrinsically interactive, as users explore new places and activities through VR, movement is a natural reaction to reach out to their surroundings or if able to walk, follow the path on their visuals.  This technology could bring cognitive improvement and greater improvement in participants’ morale, which may enhance mental well-being.

As it becomes easier to produce virtual environments, creators could make VR environments that are customised to the user which could include allowing them to explore their home or a favourite location.

A team member from Signature at The Beeches, Kirsty, told us about the VR experience and technology:

Started using in our dementia community as I thought it would be brilliant for residents who cannot visit tourist attractions and their home towns. Our community love looking at photos of landmarks so I thought this would be so exciting for them using virtual reality.The technology used was a VR Oculus headset. One app lets you go anywhere in the world and puts you in that location. The possibilities are endless with the headset; they can attend concerts – front seats of course! There is so much they can do. Family and relatives can give us information of childhood addresses, schools, holidays etc.

Some of the visuals I downloaded:

  • Concerts – any singer
  • Safari
  • Carnivals
  • Boat trips
  • Outer Space
  • Under the Sea

At first the residents were unsure about putting it on but I let them hold it up to their eyes at first so they were in control. They were looking up and down and all around their surroundings.

Signature at The Beeches have tried VR therapy and were met with positive reviews where residents had a special trip down memory lane. One resident Brenda spent time in London listening to buskers and walking down the Embankment along with other memorable London moments.

Another resident, Mario, reminisced in Italy with a trip around Rome speaking Italian and remembering special times from home and when Betty, had a go she went on a boat safari seeing the animals.

We do all we can to make sure our residents are enjoying their days together and reminiscing is one of their favourite past times to keeps residents thinking positively about their health and encouraging fun new methods to enjoy their time at home.