Mar 29, 2017

Google Creates a New Virtual Reality Experience: “A Walk Through Dementia”

Great strides are being made by scientists every day so that caregivers around the world can learn how to make life better for individuals diagnosed with dementia. Google, partnering with Alzheimer’s Research UK, has taken this dedication one step further by creating a new virtual reality experience called “A Walk Through Dementia”. This innovative and educational breakthrough will not only help doctors, families and caregivers; but also the patients who have received a diagnosis of dementia and other seniors who are feeling disconnected and isolated because no one can possibly understand what they are going through. This virtual connection helps put a different perspective on how to provide the support and encouragement these patients need. How does it work?

Virtual Experiences

Google provides an app that uses 360° cameras and a compelling voiceover so you can experience one day in the life of a lady who is losing some of her memory. You are given certain tasks to perform as you follow along with her during the day.

  1. At the supermarket: An eye-opening, animated first scenario shows how hard it is for her to just pop into a supermarket. This is because short-term memory loss, navigation and vision problems are causing her to struggle while trying to read a shopping list; find the right items and count money in this busy environment. Viewing this will give you a more compassionate and empathetic understanding of how much energy it takes and how exhausting it is when you are experiencing certain symptoms of dementia.
  2. On the road: The next scenario shows her walking from the supermarket with her son, who gets distracted, and how she decides to try to get home on her own. This illustrates how hard it is for a person with signs of dementia to navigate through busy streets, noisy crowds, unfamiliar places and unfamiliar people. This is because navigation, visual-spatial problems and disorientation are making this difficult and causing panic when the familiar becomes unrecognisable.
  3. At Home: Finally, she is back at home and this is a more familiar and comforting place. This is why many people diagnosed with dementia spend more time there; it is where they feel the safest. We can still see, however, in this third scenario, that even in her own home there are still some challenges. Simple tasks such as making tea for visiting family members and memorising instructions are proving to be more difficult due to visual symptoms and coordination problems.

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Why Do People With Dementia Sometimes Have Eyesight Issues?

Information comes through our eyes to the brain and gives us a list of specific types of dementia that can damage the visual system. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia and there is usually a decline in some sort of visual capacity. Problems most often arise in four areas: motion blindness, depth perception, colour perception and contrast sensitivity. This means that these patients can lose visual clarity and sharpness in their eyesight; begin to see only two of the three primary colours; and, have shrinking peripheral vision. These eyesight issues can cause problems with reading and their ability to understand the outside world and process it through the visual representation in their mind.

Signs of Sight Loss

When caring for someone with dementia, be aware of problems with:

  • Reading
  • Recognising people
  • Coping with light; both low or bright
  • Finding things
  • Avoiding obstacles
  • Locating food on their plate
  • Seeing; especially when they wear glasses


Alzheimer’s Australia says that there are more than 413,106 Australians living with dementia today. Companies like Google and Alzheimer’s Research UK are doing their part to help us learn and understand what they are going through; so that we can make life better for them. It’s important to remember that a person with a diagnosis of dementia should have their eyesight examined regularly and, you can do your part to help make life better by: changing a few things in your home to reduce the risk of them falling and bumping into furniture; increasing the lighting around the home to help minimise risk and, by using clear contrasts, such as brightly coloured towels, to help them distinguish one object from another.

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