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Virtual Reality App Offers Hint On What It Is Like To Live With Dementia

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A new smartphone app simulates dementia – and offers a sense of what it is like to live with different forms of the condition.

Dubbed A Walk Through Dementia, the Android-exclusive virtual reality app was created by Cambridgeshire charity Alzheimer’s Research UK in partnership with VR specialists VISYON.

"Dementia is commonly misunderstood, so [this] is designed to offer the public a clearer picture of the challenges that people living with the condition face in everyday life,” said the charity’s chief executive Hilary Evans.

This will lend a poignant look into the emotional effects of dementia symptoms, which patients themselves said was crucial to show, Evans added.

The app uses the Google Cardboard headset for the experience – something that goes beyond memory loss and involves varying symptoms suffered every day.

It was voiced by Dame Harriet Walter, an Olivier Award-winning actor whose parents succumbed to dementia. Broadcaster Jon Snow – whose mother also died of Alzheimer’s – provided the introduction.

The app combines several computer-generated scenarios with 360-degree video sequences to show how seemingly easy daily tasks challenge dementia patients. The user undergoes three scenarios: buying ingredients, bringing them home and making a warm cup of tea for the family.

Part of the process of producing the app were people living with dementia, as well as Sebastian Crutch, a professor at the Dementia Research Center of University College London.

Experts in the field welcomed this innovation.

“We will increasingly be asked for help by people with dementia ... [and this] will improve how we can help,” reported University of Southampton’s Tula Brannelly.

The first-of-its-kind app can be downloaded from the Google Play Store or the website AWalkThroughDementia.org.

A study recently revealed that most people with symptoms of dementia choose to delay a visit to their doctor out of fears that the diagnosis would give them the “life is over” diagnosis.

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