A senior living community in Texas is giving visitors and family members a chance to experience dementia first hand. They call it the “virtual dementia tour.”
By way of newfangled “virtual reality goggles,” the Silverado Memory Care Community in Plano, TX is able to offer a simulated disorientation for its visitors. The experience is similar to the loss of motor function observed in numerous dementia patients.
Donning special glasses, gloves, headphones, and shoe insoles, tour takers are assigned four simple, everyday tasks:
- Make the bed
- Find a black jacket and zip it up
- Feed the dog
- Take medication (a placebo pill)
Sound easy? For those with dementia or other diseases or disorders, it isn’t. The tour takers had a tough time, too.
“I felt disoriented,” one visitor told The Dallas Morning News. “If I had been by myself, I think I would’ve sat down and waited until someone told me what to do next.”
Indeed, one guest after another failed to grab the jacket, forgot to feed the dog, or fumbled in finding the pillbox. Some of them couldn’t even walk without holding onto the wall.
The whole experience is part of a national effort to educate the public about the challenges posed by aging. The nonprofit creatives behind the project, Second Wind Dreams, are taking their initiative to various sites around the country. The idea is to remind people that aging isn’t just a matter of cognitive impairment. Dementia is very much a physical condition, too.
It’s encouraging to see the kind of revelations that come out of these simulated experiences. I think one of the most difficult aspects of the senior experience is the frustration the elderly sometimes feel when trying to aptly describe their day-to-day challenges. By all accounts, the “virtual dementia tour” helps to overcome that barrier and lend real understanding to these patients’ loved ones.
Naturally, understanding yields both compassion and progress. Let’s hope the “virtual dementia tour” generates plenty of both once it makes it’s way around America.