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When dementia patient Evelin Costello saw an opera performance with VR (virtual reality) glasses, she took her back to her previous life, when she and her husband attended every show in town.

“That was beautiful. It felt like he was with me, with David, when he was alive, “she said.

Ms. Costello clapped her hands and sat in her seat during the virtual reality performance. It was so real that she cried a few tears when she talked about it afterward.

Ms. Costello was one of the few residents of Melbourne’s Nellie Melba Retirement Village to see the performance this week.

The technology creates a 360-degree view that allows someone wearing a VR headset to move around the stage and see the performance from any angle by moving their head.

The pilot project by Ryman Healthcare, the Melba Opera Trust and the technology company Inverse aimed to evaluate the therapeutic effects of VR and live opera.

Estimated 460. 000 Australians live with dementia and there is growing evidence that music can help alleviate symptoms, connect patients with people and places from their past, and evoke emotions and memories, said Amy Black, executive director of the Melba Opera Trust.

A 2020 Monash University research report examining the use of VR in elderly care found that these were residents who might otherwise be able to self-isolate and that they enjoyed the richer interactions and Enjoyed the diversity of VR.

However, the results also suggest that older people with dementia may not respond well to head-mounted displays.

The arcade-like game technology is also being used to test a new exercise program in four nursing homes in Victoria and New South Wales.

A program developed by Neuroscience Research Australia called Smart Step uses a dance mat and customized versions of popular video games to improve players’ balance, thinking skills and reduce the risk of falls.

Inverse founder Darren Vukasinovic believes that VR works in a similar way to music therapy, which stimulates memory in people with dementia.

“You see them clap and laugh and some try to get up and dance – I think that’s more than we can hope for,” he said.

“I informed the residents and said, ‘If you feel dizzy, just take off your headset. ‘. Neither of them took off the headset.

“They were there every 20 minutes. They took it off and loved it. I think it also breaks stereotypes about technology adoption. “

Special Care Coordinator David Sevilleno sat next to dementia patient Donald Watson and stroked his hand during the performance.

“He actually thought he was elsewhere. So I tried to calm him down because I know him very well and he is actually trying to feel if someone is around, “said Sevilleno.

“He mentioned to me that it brought him back 30 years ago and that this music was pretty familiar to him.

Mr Sevilleno said VR is another step in dementia therapy and treatment and can be used to lift moods without using drugs.

“He [Mr Watson] said to me, ‘I will actually remember this all day,” said Mr Sevilleno.

“‘The music will repeat itself in my head all day. “After that he was really very happy. “

Alumni of the Melba Opera Trust, Stacey Alleaume, Nathan Lay, Michael Petruccelli and the internationally known pianist Amir Farid could be seen in the opera evening.

Another resident of the village, 89-year-old Nance Grant, is a retired opera singer and longtime board member of the Melba Opera Trust.

She said the VR experience is completely different for the audience and performers than it is for a theater.

“When you do something like this, you have to be aware that there is a camera doing things and on stage all you think about is to relate that story to music and play the role,” Ms. Grant said said.

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Nursing Home, Melbourne, Dementia

News – AU – The attempt at a virtual reality opera brings smiles and tears to the elderly care residents in Melbourne
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Ref: https://www.abc.net.au