If you’re caring for someone with dementia in your relationship – or you just want to understand more about what it’s like to live with dementia – an innovative virtual reality app is about to be launched.
A Walk Through Dementia will be premiered at a three-day public installation at Lonson’s St Pancras International Station from June 2.
The free app, available from the Google Play Store, has been developed by Alzheimer’s Research UK and virtual reality specialists VISYON. It uses a widely-available Google Cardboard headset to put you in the shoes of someone with dementia. The experience will also be viewable headset-free on the app, or online at: www.awalkthroughdementia.org
Voiced by Olivier Award-winning actress Dame Harriet Walter, and with an introduction from broadcaster Jon Snow, A Walk Through Dementia is designed to help us think beyond memory loss to gain a fully immersive insight into the varied symptoms people with dementia can experience in everyday life.
The app uses computer-generated environments and 360-degree video sequences to illustrate in powerful detail how even the most everyday task of making a cup of tea can become a challenge for someone living with dementia.
Unfolding over three scenarios, the app user is tasked with buying ingredients, taking them home, and making a cup of tea for their family.
In the first scenario, a busy supermarket environment shows challenges people with dementia have at the check-out, counting money, reading their shopping list, and finding items.
A street sequence illustrates problems people face with navigation, visual-spatial issues, and disorientation.
Back home, making tea for visiting family presents challenges around memorising instructions, visual symptoms, and coordination.
The app features a compelling voiceover from Dame Harriet Walter, who lost both her parents to dementia, and an introduction from Jon Snow, whose mother died of Alzheimer’s disease – the most common form of dementia.
Developed with the help of people living with dementia, and with support from Professor Sebastian Crutch at UCL’s Dementia Research Centre, A Walk Through Dementia is a compelling perspective on a condition that affects 850,000 people in the UK.
Hilary Evans, Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, says: “Dementia is commonly misunderstood, so A Walk Through Dementia is designed to offer the public a clearer picture of the challenges that people living with the condition face in everyday life.
“The app also gives a poignant insight into the emotional impact of symptoms, an element that people with dementia told us was important to achieve.
“Although each person with dementia experiences the condition differently, and it would be hard to re-create the full range of complex symptoms, harnessing new technology like virtual reality helps us engage people with the impact of dementia on a new level.”
Trina Armstrong, who lives with posterior cortical atrophy, a form of Alzheimer’s disease, advised on the project. She says: “Anyone living with dementia will experience it uniquely, but I hope A Walk Through Dementia will provide people with an idea of what the world is like for me.
“Everyday things like popping to the supermarket, or making a cup of tea, are things I used to take for granted, but dementia presents a real barrier to my everyday life in ways that people often don’t realise.
“It’s been empowering for me to feed some of my symptoms and experiences into the app and see them re-created. I hope it will encourage the public to think differently about dementia and the people living with the condition they might meet.”
A Walk Through Dementia is designed for use on Android phones. For more on the project, including films and to purchase one of Alzheimer’s Research UK’s cardboard headsets, visit www.awalkthroughdementia.org
After the St Pancras International Station launch, the app will be showcased at The Times Cheltenham Science Festival from June 7-12.
If you care for someone with dementia, and you’d like to talk with one of our counsellors about the effect your caring role has on your relationship, we may be able to offer you free sessions. Have a chat with our friendly appointments team on 01234 356350.