A project carried out in Helsinki has shown promising results in the utilisation of smart technology to treat older people with memory disorders.
In 2020, Kustaankartano Senior Centre tested an innovative multi-sensory room. The sensory room stimulates and calms visitors’ senses with the help of an interactive smart wall, running water, scents and various natural materials. In addition to this, the project involved piloting a VR headset-based nature experience for people with memory disorders.
The results of the pilots show that the use of antidepressants, depression and anxiety of the participating older people with memory disorders decreased during the sensory room pilot. The target group’s health grew more stable, and the sensory room supported the cognitive skills of those with memory disorders. The VR nature experience, on the other hand, reduced restlessness among the target group and was considered relaxing. Using the headset did not cause any anxiety or fear among those with memory disorders.
The first sensory room was built in Helsinki at Kustaankartano Senior Centre’s Eeden unit, which is a sheltered housing unit for people with memory disorders. The VR headset pilot was also carried out at Kustaankartano.
“Working with clients with memory disorders is all about living in the moment, and those moments are difficult to measure. However, every session in the sensory room and with the VR headset has an effect on the clients’ sense memory. Even if they cannot remember the session afterwards, the moment was special for them and the people with them. The sensory room clearly helped people with memory disorders to manage their anxiety and depression,” says Head Nurse Jaana Pilvinen from Kustaankartano.
Sensory room replicated in Tampere and Oulu
The sensory room in Helsinki was built as part of the City of Helsinki innovation unit Forum Virium Helsinki’s Co-created Health and Wellbeing project, in which cities develop customer-oriented and smart health care services in collaboration with companies. The 6Aika project is funded by the Helsinki-Uusimaa Regional Council.
“The Co-created Health and Wellbeing project involved seeking solutions to health and social services challenges via the utilisation of new technologies and co-creation. Smart technologies have allowed us to improve the quality of life of older people living in service homes in many ways and facilitate the work of care staff, for example. Technologies also free up people’s time, which can be better spent interacting with others,” says Project Manager Peeter Lange from Forum Virium Helsinki.
The piloting of the multi-sensory room in Helsinki was carried out in collaboration with the staff at Kustaankarto, Service Centre Helsinki and various companies. The single most impressive element of the sensory room is the smart wall, which allows clients to enjoy virtual nature treks, create art or just play around. The smart wall was created by OiOi Collective Oy, a Finnish company that produces interactive services. The VR headset pilot was carried out by the startup Senopi AG.
The sensory room pilot carried out in Helsinki was also replicated in Tampere and Oulu. In Oulu, the pilot was carried out at the Hanhilehto day activity centre for people with disabilities, which is visited by approximately 60 clients per day. In Tampere, the pilot was carried out at Tuomikallio day activity centre for people with disabilities. The pilots are set to at the end of 2020, but at least in Helsinki, Kustaankartano is planning on implementing the sensory room and VR headset permanently.
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