Dallas senior living community explores VR with dementia patients

The expanse of space before 91-year-old Russell Craig seems endless as he gazes at the swirling galaxies and constellations. Thousands of miles above the earth, he turns his head only to be greeted by satellites and stars.

But in reality, Craig is sitting in a chair, his feet planted firmly on the floor. Space may be far away, but for residents of The Preston of the Park Cities, it’s just a push of a button away.

The Dallas senior living community introduced virtual reality headsets to their weekly activities almost two years ago. Residents can do virtually anything within the limits of technology, from sports to flying through mountains to walking through the wreckage of the Titanic. Aside from its recreational aspects, community workers say it’s helpful in stimulating memories in residents with dementia.

“We had a resident at Memory Care who was in the military and had severe behavioral issues,” said Lana Francois, who helps with recreational activities at the facility. “Every time we made him fly into virtual reality, it calmed him down. You could see it with a snap of your fingers — you could see him transform.”

Oculus Quest technology was meant to engage dwellers regardless of their physical ability, but has also proven helpful with dexterity, focus, and focus. one of dr The study led by Chee Siang Ang found that the virtual experience had a “calming effect” on affected dementia patients caused by the sense of immersion in a virtual environment. Conversely, the active involvement of VR technology helped encourage more meaningful engagement, even for short periods of time.

“We used to play Wii games on it, although it took residents a minute to get used to it, so any new games we introduce will be about the same,” said Debbie Dickenson, director of community life. “Then they will argue to try and use it when they realize they can move around in it and do whatever they want.”

While Craig may be new to seeing space up close, he was keen to do it again.

“I have a flight simulator on my TV and it’s like virtual reality,” Craig said. “It’s not easy because I wasn’t instructed in how to operate the controls. But I suppose kids do.

“I can do it if they can,” he added.

Mark Denzin, executive director of the Dallas and Northeast Texas chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, believes VR is similar to music theory when it comes to stimulating the brain in engaging ways. Although he has seen positive results from the technology, he explains that it is only a way of helping patients deal with dementia, not curing it.

“As complex as the brain is, I think the standard thinking behind what we can do is probably limitless,” Denzin said. “I believe that the collision of science and technology could create a truly unique partnership to help people with dementia or Alzheimer’s.”

The benefit of VR in dementia is a newer concept in the medical world, but studies show positive results. An article by Dr. Lora Apple and Dr. 2021’s Jennifer Campos reviewed 18 different studies on VR for dementia patients, with 89.5% of the included studies citing a positive emotional response and 73.7% targeting a better quality of life for affected patients.

dr Jin Ryong Kim, an assistant professor of computer science at the University of Texas at Dallas, agrees that this technology has the potential to benefit similar treatments.

“I think people are looking for haptics and VR because it has the power to make patients feel like it’s real,” Kim said. “Realism, immersion and interactivity – things like that can make a difference. The technology is going in that direction and one application is in this medical field.”

Looking beyond the potential for dementia sufferers, Dickerson says staff at The Preston of the Park Cities are trying to turn VR use into a group activity to keep residents engaged while also finding ways to help those with behavioral issues . She appreciates the opportunity to respond individually to residents through unique simulators and games. Francois sees its uplifting effect on people with dementia struggling with depression and puts a smile on their faces.

“It can be a chore,” Dickerson said, “but once they get used to it, they like it and they’re excited to have the chance to do it again.”

Claire Tweedie wrote this story as part of her participation in High School Journalism 101, the Dallas Morning News’ mentorship program for high school journalism students.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published.