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VR improves understanding of dementia needs in design

For the first time, non-medical related professionals in Australia have experienced what it is believed to be like to live with dementia thanks to the use of the Virtual Dementia Tour (VDT).

Paynter Dixon employee being led by Churches of Christ Care Virtual Dementia Tour facilitator, Modupe Akib (Source: Churches of Christ)
Paynter Dixon employee being led by Churches of Christ Care Virtual Dementia Tour facilitator, Modupe Akib (Source: Churches of Christ)

The chance to trial the VDT was presented to 16 professionals at construction company Paynter Dixon by aged care provider Churches of Christ Care following the builder’s work on a number of their facilities.

Participants experienced inability to concentrate, distorted senses and disorientation as part of the VDT, in what Churches of Christ Care’s Director of Seniors and supported Living Bryan Mason says is the closest experience a person with a healthy brain can have of what dementia is like.

“The idea was to help the staff develop a better understanding of the impacts that their design and construction decisions may have on people living with dementia,” Ms Mason says.

“Paynter Dixon has worked on a few of our facilities, including our current integrated community development at Warwick, so we were excited to have the opportunity to support the staff to complete the Virtual Dementia Tour.”

During the experience, participants met with certified trainers who outfitted them with patented devices to alter their senses, and guide them through the tour.

Through a range of tasks and exercises, the staff members were able to experience for themselves the physical and mental challenges facing those living with dementia.

One of the participants, Paynter Dixon’s Aged Care and Supported Living Specialist Laila Chalustowski says participating in the VDT was an incredible opportunity given her and her team’s involvement in the aged care sector.

“We were all very appreciative of the chance to get a better insight into what we need to consider in our work and designs, like the lighting, noise levels, and acoustics,” she says.

“The VDT really highlighted just how important these considerations really are.”

Mr Mason says it was this growing need for improved understanding and appropriate support for people living with dementia that led Churches of Christ Care to secure the exclusive mainland Australian license to the ‘immersive’ experience.

More information of the Virtual Dementia Tour can be found online and registrations of interest in participating in a Virtual Dementia Tour can also be found online or via email.

Family and carer training, as well as partnerships with VDT will be run in early 2018.

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