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Welsh language movies for virtual reality headsets help Welsh speakers with dementia

A lack of Welsh language VR content meant that Welsh speaking people diagnosed with dementia couldn’t benefit from the technology. Now, thanks to a partnership between Digital Communities Wales and Grwp Dementia Bontnewydd, 360 Welsh language VR movies have been created.

There are more than 42,000 people in Wales diagnosed with dementia. The Alzheimer’s Society in a 2010 report says that only 37.4% of people with dementia in Wales have been diagnosed.

Through its work with hospitals and care homes, Digital Communities Wales has shown how Virtual Reality (VR) headsets can help people with dementia. They often find it difficult to connect with the present. Anxiety and confusion about what they’re doing can be debilitating and distressing. Virtual Reality (VR) headsets can help them experience the outside world or places from their past so they can connect and share their recollections with carers and family members.

Grwp Dementia Bontnewydd, a group of carers and people with Dementia, approached DCW to find out more about VR technology. They were surprised to learn that there was no material available that was suitable for Welsh speaking people diagnosed with dementia. This was a significant issue as people with dementia rely far more on their first language, which in many cases is Welsh.

How

The Digital Communities Wales Advisor in North Wales, Simon Jones, pulled together a partnership of organisations including BBC Wales, the National Museums of Wales, Alzheimer’s Society Wales and medical experts. Taking into account academic and clinical research, the team produced new VR material suitable for Welsh speakers.

In all, 360 VR movies with Welsh language surround sound soundscapes were produced. These pilot videos were then tested by the members of Grwp Dementia Bontnewydd. Members of the group also tried out the VR headsets to get the full experience. The feedback means that even more effective material can be created in the future.

Impact

Feedback from the group was extremely positive. One member said, “It’s beneficial that so many materials are created because it is important to tailor the material to the person, in order to entertain the person and create a conversation.”

Another member said, “People with dementia can rely so much on their first language of Welsh as dementia worsens, so it’s important to have materials like this that use the language and our culture.”