The Virtual Forest, the fun video game with fluttering butterflies and splashing ducklings, puts people with dementia in control

 Wednesday 7 December 2016

Alzheimer’s Australia Vic today launched The Virtual Forest™, a screen-projected game designed to bring joy to the lives of people living with dementia through the use of cutting edge video game and sensor technology.

“The Virtual Forest™ is empowering for a person with dementia. It gives them an element of control at a time in their life when so many choices are beyond their control,” Leanne Wenig, Acting CEO Alzheimer’s Australia Vic said.

“With The Virtual Forest™, we are able to project a beautiful landscape onto a big screen that, through interactivity, takes a person with dementia into a virtual environment where they can experience awe, giggles and amazement.

“Simply by waving their arms in the air or clapping their hands, the user is enchanted by the imagery and engaged through the stimulating interactivity,” Ms Wenig said.

With movements detected by Microsoft Kinect technology, a person can easily instigate changes in the scenery such as butterflies fluttering through flowers, a row boat floating around a pond or a family of ducks splashing about in the water. No headsets or hand-control devices are needed.

“Alzheimer’s Australia Vic is constantly looking out for game-changing innovations that will improve the quality of life of people living with dementia,” Ms Wenig said.

The game can be installed as an interactive art installation, used for one on one engagement, in group interaction or a shared, family experience.

The project was launched through a Pozible campaign in March 2014 that attracted $24,000 in pledges that supported development. The campaign piqued the interest of international technology media who got behind the concept of putting smiles back on the faces of people living with dementia.

Residents and staff of major sponsor, Lifeview Residential Care (Lifeview) played a critical role in testing and refining the product over the past two years. The thoughts, reactions and mood of residents formed valuable feedback on this project, which is built around the sensitivities of those living with dementia.

Lifeview Chief Executive Officer Madeline Gall said the change in the demeanour of residents is truly amazing. They are calmer, yet more involved and there is a light in their eyes.

“To see this technology in action is extremely heart-warming. Watching the faces of residents living with dementia light up as they realise they are in control only reinforces Lifeview’s decision to assist in bringing this technology to life, “ Ms Gall said.

Ms Wenig said the ability to control what is happening in the forest heightens communication and interaction. It’s been wonderful to see Lifeview leading the way and acknowledging what a great experience this is for their residents and staff.

“I wish to acknowledge the original Pozible donors who kick-started the development, the major donors and major sponsor, Lifeview Residential Care and their CEO, Madeline Gall, who had the vision to commit to this world-first project and make our virtual forest a reality,” Ms Wenig said.

The Virtual Forest™ was developed with Opaque Media Group, an award-winning Melbourne innovation and technology design studio.

The Virtual Forest™ is available for purchase and use in aged care homes, hospitals and healthcare centres. As an interactive art installation it is available for purchase and use in corporate, government and local government buildings, art galleries and other public spaces. For hardware, software specifications and pricing packages visit https://vic.fightdementia.org.au/the-virtual-forest or call the National Dementia Helpline 1800 100 500.

Dementia is the second leading cause of death in Australia and there is no cure. In Australia there are 353,800 people living with dementia and this number will increase to around 900,000 by 2050.

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Notes to media

·           When writing or talking about dementia, please include our free National Dementia Helpline 1800 100 500 - a telephone information and support service available across Australia.

·           The words used to talk about dementia can have a significant impact on how people with dementia are viewed and treated in our community. Please read our Dementia Language Guidelines that have been developed by people living with dementia and carers.

About Alzheimer’s Australia Vic

In Victoria almost 97,000 people are living with dementia. This figure is projected to increase to 386,000 by 2050. Alzheimer’s Australia Vic is the charity and peak body representing people, of all ages, with all forms of dementia in Victoria. We provide specialised dementia information, education and support services. Call our National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500 or visit www.fightdementia.org.au/vic

About Lifeview

Lifeview Residential Care is a leading Victorian provider of residential aged care services. Operating mainly throughout the south eastern suburbs of Chelsea, Cranbourne, Emerald and Wheelers Hill, Lifeview focuses on quality of life for those entrusted into its care. Lifeview adopts the philosophy and principles of the Eden Alternative across all our homes. The Eden Alternative compliments our core L.I.F.E Principles of Laugh, Integrity, Focus and Engage, whilst empowering residents, staff and families.

Media contacts:

Christine Bolt 03 9816 5772 / 0400 004 553 / christine.bolt@dementia.org.au

Stephanie Puls 03 9816 5745 / 0427 757 434 / stephanie.puls@dementia.org.au