Increase Your Understanding through a Virtual Dementia Tour

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Ever wonder what it's like to try to function and perform simple tasks while living with Alzheimer's disease? Well, now you can experience it for yourself.

What Is a Virtual Dementia Tour (VDT)?

A VDT is an experience that's created to help people without dementia imagine the challenges that someone with a cognitive impairment faces every day. The VDT was designed by P.K. Beville and is available through Second Wind Dreams,

Read more: What's the Difference between Dementia and Alzheimer's Disease?

What Does a Virtual Dementia Tour Involve?

In a VDT, the participant is given props to wear that include a pair of gloves to wear on their hands, glasses that impair the vision, shoe inserts that are uncomfortable and a pair of headphones that plays a CD with constant background noises recorded on it.

The idea behind the virtual dementia tour is to impede your ability to think clearly through the constant distracting noise and simulate the deficits that older adults often have in physical abilities, vision and hearing.

Once you are outfitted with the props, you are asked to accomplish a series of simple tasks. These tasks might include duties such as setting the table, finding a white sweater and folding a small laundry basket of clothes.

How Much Time Does a Virtual Dementia Take?

The total amount of time for a VDT is approximately 30 minutes.

Ten to twelve minutes of that is spent with the participant dressed in the props and trying to accomplish the tasks assigned to them, while the rest of the time is allocated for preparation, processing the experience and education.

How Effective Is the Virtual Dementia Tour?

Multiple people who have taken the VDT report feeling shaken, anxious and distressed.

Most are unable to complete all of the simple tasks they are assigned. Several people are upset to the point of tears and will give up on the tasks and forget what they are supposed to be doing due to the difficulty and distractions.

Some people have criticized the VDT, saying it emulates more of what an aging person experiences due to deficits in their senses and physical abilities, as opposed to someone with cognitive problems in memory, processing information, decision-making and language skills. Others have essentially said that there's no way to accurately describe what someone with dementia experiences. And, the person taking the VDT knows that in a few minutes, life will return to normal.

While it's not a perfect representation, the VDT has been hailed as a way to increase empathy, patience, awareness and understanding for family and professional caregivers in the interactions and caring for those who have Alzheimer's or another dementia.

Judging by others' reactions, I think it often succeeds.

Suggested Reading


ABC News. June 30, 2009. 'Virtual Dementia Tour' Leaves Participants Frustrated but Sympathetic.

McKnight's. October 9, 2014. Fumbling in the Dark- My Virtual Dementia Tour.

Second Wind Dreams. VDT Family Edition. Accessed September 24, 2014.

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