The elderly, MONA VR Therapy immersions and story
It was a night of ease and interest and fun moments at the Centro Professionale Sociosanitario Lugano, presenting our* work on virtual reality immersions for the elderly. Amongst the crowd, instructors, activation specialists, students, authorities, and numerous professionals working at day centres and elderly homes in Ticino.
*Virtual reality immersions at elderly home and day centres, practice conducted by Felix Bachmann Quadros and Kevin Merz.
MONA is a highly advanced, fully customizable Virtual Reality Therapy (VRT) platform that whisks patients away from the confines of hospital rooms using therapeutic, immersive artworks created by artists and doctors. MONA is used by medical professionals around the world to address a variety of complex healthcare challenges.
Coming from an artistic background, storytelling techniques, and a theatrical / performative connection to an audience, MONA allows us to work in ways unique. And this is because it is the structuring vision of both extraordinarily talented artist and some of the best programers in the world.
One of the ways in which we have been successfully using this platform has been towards elderly homes, senior's retreat houses, and day centres. Most of the activation specialists working professionally in the sector in Ticino, Switzerland, have been formed over the last several years at the CPS Lugano. Captivated by our results, CPS Lugano invited us to present our work, and some of our experiences during the annual meeting introducing future work environments.
There are few key issues here that we are starting to realise through our work, how our immersions can address memory loss, evoque creative stimuli, and open imaginative links. Conducting immersions is all about relationship with the user and requires an intuitive connection. There is a need to hearing through a frequency that is not always evident. Hearing is also allowing one’s self to be placed beyond the boundaries that shine on our everyday circumstances.
The Chinese ideogram for hearing is a composition of meanings to the ear, the eyes, unified attention, and the heart. To hear the subtle tones that come with old age is, today, a rare gift.
Detail from “Il “Viaggio” come strumento di animazione”, Donatella Basso.
From “Comunicare con l’anziano”, Cristini, Cipolli, Porro, Cesa-Bianchi, 2012, pp 9 -10:
“Even in the elderly who have cognitive difficulties, especially in memory, the account of fragments of the past, with the sufferings and satisfactions that have distinguished it, acquire full legitimacy if someone is a witness or interlocutor: it is always listening that validates and substantiates the meaning and transmission of the word.”
And there is something that I hold dear to the opportunity of working with elderly people and this is the enormous generosity in sharing life experiences, emotions, feelings and sensations. Conducting immersions and composing stories for small groups allows work to be set through close relationship, and the collaboration with the managements of the homes as well as activation specialists. This means tailoring immersions specific to the personal history of each person, setting up scenarios that allow for a flow of memories, artistic stimuli, a dialogue to be pronounced.
I spent much time with my grandfather, whom I adored, well into adulthood. I would sit beside him and listen to the stories, his life memories, the way he would present a scene, the choice of word, the spaces and silences. I would journey through his storytelling to past times, gun duels, week-long horse rides through the savage lands of Uruguay, the importance of having the right words at the right time, the men and women he admired. All of this accounts to who I am today.
There is something natural about listening to the stories of our grandparents. My children do it today with theirs. Giving your time and allowing for someone to share life in such a way is an essential and cohesive aspect of our society.
The tones of life, after a certain age, extend beyond the mere accents of a past unavailable, they become the living substance of resolve: it puts in motion a sense of liberation. That which allows our soul to expand beyond remorse or ill feelings. Deep within a person’s memory, out of this dance of synaptic connections, lives the preponderance of love, fear, death, life beyond.
As the feeling of traveling through immersion adjusts to an internal geography, an elderly person opens to the recollection of forgotten scents, colours bright, an innuendo of physical activity.
Working from specific visuals, imagery, colours, smells, transitions, time variables, sound frequencies, in relationship to patient response, refines our work towards this area of practice. The response is extraordinary. Each journey is unique, as contact with the patient is pivotal for the outcome, the buildup always personal, and a sense of liberation the outcome of the immersion.