Everyone has heard of dementia, but what is it actually like, living with dementia?

A dementia support group in the UK, have developed what they call “The Mobile Virtual Dementia Tour” which allows people to experience what it’s like to have and experience dementia.

The common misconception is that dementia only affects one’s memory; sadly, that is only one of the symptoms, a point that the Mobile Tour demonstrates by way of a series of social experiments.

These experiments take away and/or alter the participants’ primary senses so they can be subjected to the frustration and fear that dementia can create, even if the subjects’ discomfort is only temporary.

It is hoped that the experience will help the public empathise with sufferers and dispel common misconceptions about the disease.

The tour uniquely demonstrates the importance of caring for someone with dementia. Participants experience literally everything real dementia sufferers do on a daily basis. Some of the specific things tour organisers get people to do include:

Wearing insoles in their shoes and thick gloves to recreate the sensation of having no nerve endings in their feet (hence the tell-tale shuffling gait), and no sense of touch;
Donning glasses to inhibit their sense of sight and simulate the poor peripheral vision and blurriness caused by a loss of elasticity in the lens;
Listening to loud, disjointed sounds through headphones, as dementia sufferers often lose the ability to block out unconnected sounds.

All of these tasks represent different symptoms someone living with dementia can experience.

Robbed of their senses, individuals are then asked to complete ordinary tasks like matching socks, and their reaction represents the same frustration and anger that many with dementia experience.

Whilst “The Mobile Virtual Dementia Tour” is currently a UK initiative, Alzheimer’s Australia Victoria’s Virtual Dementia Experience™ (VDE™) employs a similar approach to take participants through a multi-sensory simulation using light, sound, colour and visual content to create a virtual reality experience, immersing people into the world of dementia. Using game technology, the workshop shifts from an information session to an experiential session where participants are exposed to the lived experience of a person with dementia, in turn developing empathy for that person.

For more information on Alzheimer’s Australia Victoria’s Virtual Dementia Experience™ and how you can participate visit https://www.dementia.org.au/information/resources/technology/virtual-dementia-experience