Alzheimer Scotland launched the UK’s first Virtual Resource Centre on Tuesday 21 September - World Alzheimer’s Day 2021. Here we talk to Kevin Jamieson, Alzheimer Scotland’s Virtual Resource Centre Coordinator.

Kevin, can you describe what a ‘Virtual Resource Centre is?’

It’s a digital representation of one of our 22 bricks and mortar Dementia Resource Centres across Scotland. It embodies the same principles of dementia friendly design, has a sense of community, and is a place where people with dementia and their families and carers can meet, benefit from therapeutic groups and activities and speak to staff and volunteers who will offer support and guidance. It is a hub for accessing information at an appropriate time and pace, and where you will be made welcome by our host, who is an avatar – a digital person who can speak to you and respond to your questions.

Can you tell us about some of the benefits of the Virtual Resource Centre?

It’s always open! Just like our Freephone Dementia Helpline, the VRC is open 24 hours a day, allowing access to activities and support at a time that suits you. This also means it has the potential to support people in different time zones.

Being connected in your home! If you can’t travel, or don’t have support nearby, you can connect to a community through the VRC from the comfort of your own home and take part in activities. Family who don’t live with you can join you in taking part, or speaking to someone from Alzheimer Scotland.

Is the Virtual Resource Centre complete?

We ‘launched’ the VRC in September – so the foundations are there –and our team behind the scenes are working hard on it’s development. This includes video conferencing which will allow our visitors to book and join one-to-one video calls with Dementia Advisors and Allied Health Professionals. Video conferencing will also give visitors the chance to connect with Alzheimer Scotland community groups and activities remotely, which is so important for people living with dementia who may not be able to get to a physical Dementia Resource Centre.

Have people with lived experience of dementia been involved in the build of the VRC?

Members of the Scottish Dementia Working Group – a campaigning group of people living with dementia - have offered valuable feedback and guidance on the design and development of many features of the VRC so far. More user testing by people with lived experience is lined up as we introduce new features over the next 6 months.

Can you tell us a bit about the Gallery Wall?

We ran a fundraising appeal whereby people could buy virtual ‘bricks’ to help raise the vital funds require to build the foundations of the VRC. All the team here at Alzheimer Scotland are extremely grateful for this support. The Gallery displays all of the virtual bricks and photo dedications which have been donated. For me, being in the gallery is a humbling experience. It really brings home what this means to people from all walks of life and shows the shared desire for this vitally important support.

What is currently on offer in the VRC?

Much is changing, with constant improvements and new features being released. In the Living Room we are just about to release a more accessible way to view our catalogue of recorded videos from Alzheimer Scotland, partner organisations and independent artists. We are also developing new spaces and avatars for partner organisations to showcase their services and offer live or recorded information sessions on topics including money matters, power of attorney, health and diet and much more.

Currently visitors can view our catalogue of on demand videos in the Living Room to enjoy therapeutic, informative, and entertaining content for people living with dementia. In the Reception area, visitors can ask our digital avatar some of the most asked questions regarding dementia support and find digital information leaflets. Visitors can also preview our Kitchen under construction, where we will show interactive demonstrations of popular assistive technology products. We hope that people will check back in to benefit from more of the fantastic features and resources due to be released over the next 6 months. You are welcome to visit and explore the current resources on offer here.

If you are an independent artist or organisation creating therapeutic videos or activities for people living with dementia, and you are interested in having content hosted in the Virtual Resource Centre, please get in touch: [email protected]