Thursday, July 21, 2016

Can virtual and augmented reality transform living with dementia?

I’m spending the summer with my mother, who has been diagnosed with dementia.  Over the past few weeks I’ve been exploring various iPad apps to see how she reacts to them.  The ones I’m writing about today are virtual and augmented reality.

Live Butterflies – This is an augmented reality app that uses the iPad camera for viewing and adds a variety of different butterflies onto the screen.  I tried this app because it was one that I’d read about on a dementia website called Memory Apps for Dementia.  Also because I love butterflies myself and thought that Mum would like them too, and it was free to try.   With this app you can either use the Viewer or play a game.  In the Viewer, you turn the screen to see butterflies flying around you.  There are 4 butterflies you can choose from, the Monarch, Orange Tip, Banded King Shoemaker and Blue Morpho.  If you touch the screen one of the butterflies will fly over and land on your finger.  There’s an onscreen camera so you can take a photo of what you see on the screen.  So far with Mum I’ve only used the Viewer, but the app also has a game where you can catch as many butterflies as you can in a set time.  Mum did enjoy using this app with me, though I don’t think she would use it by herself.

My Reef 3D Aquarium – this app is a virtual aquarium where you choose the fish and the background and then interact with it.  You can change the backdrop, drag and drop various items into the aquarium, change the gravel, add a bubble sound and so on.  You have 55 different types of tropical fish to choose from, and each of these fish behaves as it would in a real aquarium, for example in swimming in schools and sometimes even interacting aggressively with other fish!  It’s also possible to set the aquarium as a sleep timer along with your own music.    Once you have set up your aquarium you can choose a still or moving camera that scans through the aquarium, allowing you to focus in and follow individual fish.  You can also “knock” on the glass, feed the fish and turn the light off and on.  Within the app you can set up 3 different aquariums with different fish and then you can move between them.  This app has been tried in residential care homes for people with dementia and has been found to be very gentle and easy to use, even for people with advanced dementia.  This is a low cost app and there is also a lite version of this app with 14 different types of fish.  I loved this app, but Mum wasn't so keen.  She said she didn't really like fish!

Before moving to her independent living apartment, my mother used to have a big garden – it was my father’s pride and joy and he used to boast that he had a plant in flower every day of the year.  I was on the look out for apps that might allow Mum to enjoy a garden and came across the Flower Garden app which was also recommended for people with dementia.  This app has been successful in tapping into memories which people have enjoyed from years gone by, as many people with dementia used to enjoy growing plants and may be missing their gardens.    Flower Garden allows you to choose virtual seeds, plant them, water them and watch them grow.   Some of the flowers bloom straight away and others take a few minutes of care each day over a week to help them grow.  The amazing thing is that you can then cut your flowers and make them into a bouquet and send it along with a personalized card.  This app is also a paid one, or a free app with in-app purchases.

The next set of apps I want to try with Mum are those that focus on attention, memory, speed and problem solving.  I’d also like to explore apps that can be used with reminders about day-to-day activities.

Do you know someone with dementia who enjoys using iPad apps?  If so please leave me a comment as I’d love to try out some more apps with my mother.  Thank you!

No comments:

Post a Comment