Hi-tech serenity for people with dementia

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EDS: Not for use before 1701 on Monday March 17, 2014

By Clifford Fram, AAP National Medical Reporter

SYDNEY, March 17 AAP – Healthcare experts have found a way to bring serenity to the lives of people with dementia – thrill-a-second gaming technology.


They want to use the technology to create virtual experiences people can enjoy at home or in care centres.

The idea is to replace bouts of anxiety, agitation and depression with a distraction that is calming and engaging.

Alzheimer’s Australia Vic has teamed up with Opaque Multimedia, a Melbourne digital-design studio, to develop the technology, which will use the same consoles as other video games.

Their first project is a virtual forest, which will allow people with dementia to control their environment as they wave their arms to make the wind gust through the trees.

“It creates a complete sensory experience of sight, sound and kinetic interaction,” says Alzheimer’s Australia Vic CEO Maree McCabe.

“Imagine being able to take a person with dementia out of their everyday experience and into a virtual environment through which they will experience awe, wonder, giggles, amazement and joy,” Ms McCabe told AAP over the phone from San Francisco, where she is attending a game developers’ conference to source crowdfunding.

She says the idea was inspired by a previous IT project aimed at helping people understand what it feels like to have dementia.

The forest is just the beginning, Ms McCabe says. She is excited about other concepts such as a beach experience or a festive Christmas scenario.

“The developers are using the same technology as the most visually impressive video games,” says Opaque Multimedia director Norman Wang.

This will break new ground in the use of virtual sensory therapies to create feelings of safety, novelty and stimulation, he adds.

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