Virtual “dementia tours” being offered by senior living provider Senior Star are giving caregivers and family members of those with dementia the opportunity to experience the effects of the struggles that come with dementia.
The new program being offered at Senior Star at Elmore Place in Davenport, Iowa, is working to help people understand what their aging counterparts are going through, reports local news source WQAD. The news channel sent one of its reporters to experience the program firsthand.
The program resembles the efforts ongoing at several “age labs” around the country, including the development of an aging suit called “AGNES” (Age Gain Now Empathy System) at MIT.
At Senior Star, the dementia tour involves simulating several disabilities such as vision impairment, arthritis and impaired hearing.
“When you walk in somebody’s shoes, you sometimes begin to better understand what they’re experiencing,” Marc Strohschein, executive director at Senior Star, told WQAD.
The reporter dons special gloves to limit hand movement, goggles to screen vision and headphones to stream noise into her ears during the tour. Then she is situated in a resident apartment and given a list of tasks to perform including filling a cup of water, folding towels, finding a sweater and putting it on.
She’s unable to complete all of the tasks.
The experience has helped people like the reporter relate to those with dementia and other ailments of aging. It also has helped Senior Star staff, the report finds.
“Memory care director Amanda Buchholz said the experience was nothing like she expected,” WQAD reports. “She says it’s helped her better understand residents, and the tour taught her to give short commands, do things more slowly, and offer more help.
“It was very heart-touching to finally, actually get to see what they go through on a daily basis,” she told the publication.
Written by Elizabeth Ecker