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.
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.