Dementia residents in Southern England are witnessing a unique type of therapy in the form of virtual reality.

Relaxing environments

Tribemix, a virtual reality company that focuses on working with clients on a variety of projects, recently worked alongside Hertfordshire based care company Quantum Care to allow its residents to try out a special piece of virtual reality software designed for those with dementia.

Residents were visited by staff from Tribemix and encouraged to use the virtual reality software. Residents who wished to participate in the experience were given the option to select one of three different environments to explore: a beach, a forest or a coral reef.

Upon selection, residents were greeted with calm relaxing environments as well as features to interact with, for example, a donkey would walk around in the beach environment, or dolphins could be seen swimming in the coral reef.

The scenes were specially designed by Tribemix staff to allow residents a form of escapism and relaxation, as well as also providing a way to combat the negative effects of dementia, such as depression and anxiety.

Humble beginnings

The project began when Tribemix Managing Director, Alex Smale, wanted to provide a way to help elderly people ‘get outside’, despite their disability preventing them so.

After seeing the negative effects an inability to go outside was causing Mr Smale’s neighbours,Stan and Dulcie, he decided to look into how he could develop his virtual reality to help people like them.

While Tribemix was working with commercial clients who wished to use virtual reality for various projects, Mr Smale was also creating a virtual reality program to help those unable to go outside.

Once the program was completed, he contacted a friend from Quantum care to ask if they would be interested in letting their residents use the software as a way to help them experience the outdoors. After a few more calls, Tribemix were able to bring the program to the residents.

“The results have been amazing and it’s the most rewarding thing I’ve ever been fortunate enough to do,” said Mr Smale.

Positive effects

The residents at Quantum care also seemed to agree with Mr Smale’s statement. One resident, Ann, was moved to tears by how amazing it was she could experience visiting a beach again, much like she used to as a child.

“This is happy tears by the way,” she said.

“This is magic what you do. I know it’s cameras, but it’s magic.”

Another resident, who also explored the beach scene, described it as “magical”.

“I really enjoyed that. I felt like I was back in Scotland again. It really took be home”, she said.

“You’ve no idea what that’s done for me.”

Further plans

Tribemix is now continuing to work with Quantum Care to help roll out the virtual reality program to more of its care homes in the area.

The virtual reality company has also said it is now currently working on another program, one that will help carers and relatives better understand what it is like to live with dementia.

And while there is no word if, in Bondi Junction, dementia therapy could soon involve the use of virtual reality, many are excited at the prospect.