Help students understand the symptoms of dementia by experiencing some of those symptoms themselves through the free “A Walk Through Dementia” Android app created by Alzheimer’s Research UK in cooperation with Google UK volunteers.
There are four videos: a short introduction to dementia, visiting the supermarket, walking home, and making tea. The videos illustrate a number of dementia symptoms which are presented as a bulleted list at the end of each video.
While the videos can be experienced in both the Android app and (3 out of 4 videos) on YouTube (see below), the more powerful experience is the interactive virtual reality (VR) version.
For the VR experience, students will need an Android phone, the free “A Walk Through Dementia” app available through Google Play, headphones (which students likely already have), and VR goggles. Affordable VR goggles can be purchased here. And by affordable, I mean KnoxLabs is running a fall 2016 sale where their cardboard goggles are $5 each. There are several other goggles available for around $15 each.
A quick note of caution. Running any VR app on my Galaxy S6 phone heats it up pretty quickly. I can watch just a few minutes of VR before my app is shut down for overheating. My phone cools down rapidly, and in short order I can watch another video. Your mileage may vary.
As an in-class VR activity, divide students into groups of three to six. The number of groups you have will depend on how many VR googles you have. Make sure there is at least one Android phone owner in each group. Ask the Android phone owners to search for and download from Google Play the “A Walk Through Dementia” app. Groups are to plug in the headphones, run the app, and put the phone in the goggles. Have each group member go through a different scenario, i.e. one group member experiences the grocery store, another experiences the walk home, and another experiences making tea. (If there are six students per group, each video is watched by two students.)
While experiencing VR, students can sit or stand, but they absolutely should not walk. It’s too disorienting – falling would be expected.
At the end of each video, the student who watched it notes the symptoms depicted. Once everyone has watched a video, each student explains to the others in the group what they experienced, being sure to outline the symptoms.
Give students an opportunity to share their experience in the VR world with the class. Ask what was most surprising about what they learned.