Herricks center using virtual reality in Alzheimer’s fight

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The Herricks Alzheimer’s Program said it will begin trying to implement virtual reality games into its rotation of activities with patients after a successful test run with patients playing virtual reality games. (Photo courtesy of the Herricks Alzheimer's Program)

Through virtual reality, the Alzheimer’s patients traveled to foreign lands, skydived, drove fast cars and Blue Angel planes, went on safari, watched thrilling sporting events and white water rafted. 

They were participating in the Herricks Alzheimer’s Program, which had a successful test  run with patients playing virtual reality games, according to Annamaria Testa, assistant program coordinator. The program will begin trying to implement virtual reality games into its rotation of activities with patients, she said.

“It was a great experience and well worth the investment,” Testa said.

Testa said that the program “Our Space,” which she said is a “social model” for adult daycare, is looking to incorporate this program with Virtu-Well President Harrison Nogin to have people come in a couple of times a year to let patients play virtual reality games. Testa said that the first visit was a trial for the program to implement Virtu-Well’s services.

Testa said that Nogin takes his programs to assisted living facilities to treat dementia patients. 

Studies have shown that virtual reality may be effective in addressing issues targeted by traditional recreational therapies like music therapy, including anxiety reduction, combating boredom, stress reduction, alleviating depression and simply providing entertainment, Testa said. 

“Our purpose is to engage them,” Testa said of the program.

Testa said that one patient’s program involved a tour of Italy, reminding the patient of a past trip. Testa said that another patient began recalling a wonderful experience after digitally white water rafting. 

“Recreational exercises can be very rewarding,” Testa said.

Testa said that the “Our Space” program is sponsored by the Herricks school district, the Nassau County Office for the Aging through the New York State Office for the Aging and the U.S. Administration on Aging, the Town of North Hempstead, the Herricks Community Fund and private donations. Patients eligible for the program must live in Nassau County with a caregiver with no paid aid assistance.

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