Virtually Anything Is Possible - 31st January at 1pm

Curious about how virtual reality could enhance your life when living with dementia? Join the panel who will be sharing their experiences and journey so far in the virtual world. Email [email protected] with any questions. 

First Experience of virtual reality - Martin’s Case Study

Our world leading Digital Leadership Team excels in the design of digital services and solutions for people living with long term health conditions. In this blog, Martin Robertson explains his positive experience with using virtual reality and gives some top tips for both users and professionals facilitating a virtual reality experience: 

My name is Martin and I live up in Aberdeenshire.  I have a rare dementia called Posterior Cortical Atrophy which hits the senses and I can get sensory overload easily. I very rarely watch the television or films because I can’t really use both my eyes and my ears at the same time.  When I go along to meetings such as Teams or Zoom I usually close my eyes so I can concentrate on the hearing and talking.  There have been times where I have experienced sensory overload where I must go into a quiet room for half an hour and let my brain reset, and then I’m alright again.

I’m an IT geek and have been all my life. I even bought the ZX81 when it first came out - most people won’t even know what I’m talking about there! So, when I noticed back in 2017 that Alzheimer Scotland were doing a Tech Day, I thought I’d go along. 

I was having what I’d call a ‘foggy day’. Many people with dementia get foggy days, days’ when you just feel like you are walking through mud and you are not getting anywhere and they can get more frequent as your dementia gets worse. Despite this, we thought we would go over.
We turned up, had a look around and I noticed that there was a VR set in the corner. The woman put the VR headset over my head, a film came on of an underwater scene with a whale and a diver, and it was just as if a light switch was turned on in my head. People could actually see me become livelier; my shoulders went back and I stood up properly.  I felt like I was buzzing, and I stayed like that for a few days afterwards.  

Using the Meta (formally Oculus) Quest 2 headset

The Oculus is great. It works like the first Virtual Reality I tried in that it lifts the fog from my brain. I don’t know how, but it does. With this kit there is no hassle, it’s wireless and you don’t need to put up with room sensors or anything like that. 

It’s completely immersive. I find that even just switching the headset on and setting up the virtual room parameters is enough to get my brain going. Within the headset, I can see the two controllers light up so I don’t lose them.  I start the experience sitting down and then, once I am more comfortable, I can then stand up to be able to move freely around the virtual environment.  

My favourite experiences have been going on safari and exploring the Space Station. Even just having the headset on and sitting in the virtual waiting room is nice. I find that using the headset a little bit most days is enough to clear my brain fog and I can feel the effects of this lasting into the following day.  

Martin’s top tips for using Virtual Reality

  • Don’t be afraid to try it
  • Take your time within the headset and allow yourself to adjust 

  • Practice getting to know the buttons on the controllers
  •  Spend no more than 15 – 20 minutes within a virtual environment.   It’s very easy to lose track of time. A good idea might be to set a timer. 
  • If you get motion sickness, it might be a good idea to sit down while being in the headset.

Martin’s top tips for staff / professionals facilitating a virtual reality experience

  • Do not jump in too quickly to help.  Allow the person time to adjust to the new experience.
  • Communicate clearly what you are about to do (i.e. putting on the headset) and where you will be in the room. . 
  • Let the person do it on their own if they can and allow them to explore the virtual world independently. 
  • It is best to be facilitated in a quiet space because it will allow the experience to be more immersive and free from other distractions.

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