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Virtual forest stimulates the senses

Aged care provider Lifeview Residential Care (Lifeview) has implemented a new sensory therapy application in its facilities to assist its dementia residents.
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The Virtual Forest was designed to improve the quality of life of people living with dementia.

The Virtual Forest was designed to improve the quality of life of people living with dementia through the use of video game technology.

The application was developed together with Alzheimer’s Australia Vic and Opaque Multimedia, the company behind the Virtual Dementia Experience.

The forest is a virtual world that has been specifically designed and developed for people living with dementia and provides a calming and highly interactive experience. It turns a room into an enchanted space that both stimulates the senses and engages through interactivity.

A person with dementia is taken out of their everyday experience and into a virtual environment through which they will experience awe, wonder, amazement and joy.

Over the past year, Lifeview, its residents, families and staff, have assisted  in  the  trialing  and  development  of  the Virtual Forest.  The thoughts, reactions and on-­-going demeanor of residents, formed valuable feedback on this project, as it was built around the sensitivities of those living with dementia.

During the trials residents were invited to ‘enter’ the forest, where their movements, picked up by a sensor, drove changing scenery on a large screen. The ability to control what was happening right in front of them captured residents’ imagination and attention, it also drove heightened communication and interaction, which lasted long after the resident had left the forest environment.

“The change in the demeanor of residents is truly amazing, they are calmer, yet more involved and there is a light in their eyes”, says Izabela Stosegan, clinical care coordinator at Lifeview The Willows.

Lifeview chief executive officer Madeline Gall is equally enthusiastic about this technology and the changes it will bring to residents and staff.

“To see this technology in action is extremely heart warming. Watching the faces of residents living with dementia light up as they realise they are in control only re-enforces Lifeview’s decision to assist in bringing this technology to life.

“The journey has also enormously benefitted our staff, they have formed closer relationships with residents as well as having the opportunity to undergo specialised training in dementia via Alzheimer’s Australia Vic’s Virtual Dementia Experience,” Ms. Gall adds.

Maree McCabe, chief executive officer of Alzheimer’s Australia Vic says: “Throughout the past 12 months Lifeview’s staff and residents have gone above and beyond to assist Alzheimer’s  Australia Vic in the trialing of this cutting edge technology. Lifeview’s partnership and assistance now means this technology is available and will make a difference to the quality of life for people living with dementia.”

The Virtual Forest is exclusively available in Lifeview homes for dementia residents for the next six months and will be used as part of a specialised Sundowning program. During this time Alzheimer’s Australia Vic will also continue to measure the effects of the technology on residents as well as continuing to refine the experience.

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