Time Travel Therapy for Dementia in Virtual Reality

Oxford, United Kingdom

Digital Health & Medical Technologies


VRTU (pronounced virtue) produces Virtual Reality (VR) content specifically tailored to provide caregivers and patients therapeutic resources to combat symptoms of dementia. Dementia encompasses a set of disorders that affect the brain and cause progressive decline in cognition. Affecting almost 47 million people worldwide, dementia not only causes cognitive defects, such as memory loss and linguistic difficulties, but also has socio-psychological effects such as isolation, depression, and low self-esteem. Reminiscence Therapy (RT) is a form of dementia treatment that involves prompts and discussions about past experiences and events. It aims to reactivate old memories in order to enhance cognitive functions and emotional wellbeing of people with dementia. Research has found RT to cause marked improvements in both memory and mood of dementia patients. Recently, several elder care facilities around the world have taken RT further by constructing past scenes from the 1950s and 1960s in real life sets. This approach has been hugely popular amongst both patients and caretakers and has resulted in improved mental health as well as happiness and communicative ability of people with dementia. However, physical reconstructions are expensive, difficult to implement, unable to cater to patient diversity, and only available in some care homes with sufficient resources. VRTU takes a unique approach to RT by using computer modeling and 360° camera technology to recreate past scenes in VR. Compared to physical constructions, VRTU's approach is more cost-effective and convenient, allowing caregivers to access therapeutic tools from anywhere and choose from a variety of reminiscent experiences depending on patients’ backgrounds and preferences. Through innovative uses of VR, VRTU aims to make the practice and delivery of RT cheaper and more effective for nursing homes and memory clinics, and democratize access to the research-proven benefits of RT to more dementia patients.