How digital actuality is taking dementia sufferers again to the long run | Life and elegance


In a cushty armchair, glass of sherry at her facet, Elspeth Ford is attending to grips along with her 3D goggles. “Maybe I’ll go another other way now,” she says, trying left, proper, up, down. She breaks right into a cheery rendition of the Lambeth Walk.

Elspeth, 79, is a resident at Langham Court, a dementia care residence in Surrey, and immediately she is trialling a digital actuality venture, Wayback, that has been designed particularly for these dwelling with dementia. Peering into her headset, Elspeth is briefly transported to 2 June 1953, and a road social gathering for the Queen’s coronation. She is having fun with a youngsters’s fancy-dress competitors. “I love that boy dressed as an Oxo cube,” she laughs.

This is the primary in what is going to develop into a sequence of digital actuality movies set at historic moments, and out there free for these with dementia, their households and carers to get pleasure from collectively by way of a cell phone and a pair of cheap 3D goggles. The thought was developed by 3 promoting creatives with household expertise of dementia. For Camilla Ford, Elspeth’s daughter, it’s an thrilling idea. “It gave Mum a huge amount of pleasure and really engaged her,” she says. Anxiety – “about what she is meant to be doing” – typically stops Elspeth getting concerned in actions. “Dementia is debilitating in so many ways; you always need creative ways to give positive experiences. She was immersed in this and it took her back to a time of happy memories, when she was productive and emotionally fulfilled.”

Elspeth has had vascular dementia for seven years, and discovering a degree of contact more and more entails shifting to the place she is, reasonably than making an attempt to convey her into the current, says Camilla. “If she is in a place she can identify with, and we can see it too, we are somehow equalised. We are at a stage where we aren’t trying to create memories but to relish positive emotions, dropping the expectation of who Mum was and just being with the person in front of us.”

Elspeth units off for lunch along with her son Dominic, nonetheless smiling. It is unlikely, says Camilla, that her mom will bear in mind what has made her really feel completely happy. “The point is that she feels uplifted, not necessarily that she knows why.”

Dan Cole, one in all Wayback’s creators, agrees. “If the film can open some memories, start a conversation or bring a smile, that’s a success,” he says. The thought started to type after a drive round Camden, north London, along with his father, then within the early levels of Alzheimer’s. “It was his old stomping ground and he kept recognising places and telling me little tales; the pub his dad drank in, where he hung about with his mates, even an alley where he once got into a scrap,” says Dan. “In that fleeting moment it was so clear in his mind. I could ask questions. He could tell me things.”

Wayback co-creator Dan Cole.

Wayback co-creator Dan Cole. Photograph: Richard Saker for the Guardian

The results on his father’s temper, and on Dan’s sense of reference to him, lasted longer. “It was the idea you could move forward by going back, maybe use those memories as a starting point for a shared experience.” The ensuing movie was remodeled 2 days in a north-London road (satellite tv for pc dishes and different trendy trappings digitally eliminated) with a volunteer forged and crew of 187 and painstakingly sourced interval props, costumes and menu (fish-paste sandwiches, notes 1 Langham Court resident approvingly). Dan’s father, who died 3 years in the past, is among the many dedications on the finish. The music – past the Lambeth Walk – is by Frankie Laine and Guy Mitchell. “My dad’s favourites,” says Dan.

Married couple Ronald and Anne Graham-Clarke are watching the movie collectively. “Oh, this is fun. I feel as if I’m at the party,” says Ronald, 89. Both he and Anne, 84, are chuckling. She faucets her foot to the music. Afterwards, Anne tells Sarah Hoare, one in all Langham Court’s administrators, about watching the coronation at residence in Scotland along with her dad and mom and sister. “My family bought a TV for the first time to watch it. It was my parents’ wedding anniversary too. It was a great party.”

Anne’s response, says Hoare, is a superb instance of digital actuality’s potential. “She completely came out of herself because she was relaxed and enjoying herself. I have never actually seen her laugh before.”

Langham Court’s philosophy relies on the Butterfly Household mannequin, devised by Dr David Sheard, a dementia specialist and CEO of Dementia Care Matters, who’s supporting Wayback. “People living with dementia become more feeling beings than thinking beings,” he says. “Feelings endure and are more to be trusted when facts diminish.” Facilitating a visit again in time – “to their undamaged longer-term memories” –can, he says, unlock the completely happy feelings that accompany them. “Wayback offers the opportunity to live in the moment, to go back in time and to just ‘be’ again and to feel validated.”

Anne and Ronald Graham-Clarke

‘Oh, this is fun. I feel as if I’m on the social gathering.’ Anne and Ronald Graham-Clarke. Photograph: Richard Saker for the Guardian

Reminiscence, utilizing music, pictures, props and function play for example, is a well-established mannequin of dementia care. Virtual actuality, Sheard believes, might present a great tool alongside this.

“The biggest risk to someone living with dementia is to lose self-esteem, to feel not connected. Years ago, it was thought to be ethical to remind people of the facts, but how do you put back what is gone from a person’s brain? Eventually activities that tax the brain and short-term memory create stress and ill being.”

The greatest measure of dementia care, Sheard believes, is wellbeing. “Dementia takes people back to the past as a way to make sense of the now. The feelings generated by an experience can stay for a very long time afterwards.”

Daphne Padfield, 93, is taking her flip with the goggles. “I felt I was really there,” she exclaims, when the movie finishes. Did she attend a road social gathering for the coronation, asks Hoare. Daphne’s detailed response is a shock. “I was actually there,” she says. “My mother, sisters and I had seats on a very good stand. We all had new dresses. They were all dying to tell her about it when we got back to school.” Daphne fortunately recounts her experiences of the day for a while. “It was such a thrill. I shall never forget,” she says, reasonably poignantly. “It is forever imprinted in my memory.”

To watch the movie in full VR, seek for The Wayback VR on YouTube’s cellular app. The Wayback App is coming quickly. For extra info please go to

(Editor references)

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