We use Virtual Reality to help care partners and people living with dementia experience joy and beauty together.
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The key thing is to begin to reflect on what this ‘new love’ looks like and to recognize the diverse and innovative ways in which we can say to the person with dementia, ‘it is good that you exist; it’s good that you are in the world.’ “
(John Swinton, 2012)
Study participants reflecting on their VR experience:
“Well I was just awe-struck. How can you not be happy to feel like you are in the middle of such awesomeness?”
“It [the VR experience] could be a little like heaven. You know… it was very peaceful. I like that. You don’t get many times to be that peaceful.“
“It was just the wonder of it. The wonder of it.”
“I don’t remember everything we did, but I know I loved it!”
Reverend Nicole Chilivis, D.Min, B.C.C.
Sumner Smith, J.D.
Reverend Dr. Nicole Chilivis is an ordained Presbyterian (USA) minister and has worked over a decade as a board certified healthcare chaplain. Nicole graduated with a BA from Wake Forest University, M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary, and a D.Min. from Seattle University. Nicole received the 2020 Maude’s Award for innovation in dementia care.
Sumner Smith is a former corporate attorney and small business owner. She graduated with a BA from Wake Forest University and a JD from The University of North Carolina.
Nicole’s work as a chaplain, especially in eldercare, led to her doctoral research project using Virtual Reality to provide shared experiences of beauty, joy and connection to people living with dementia and their care partners. Most recently Nicole and Sumner co-founded RelationalVR to bring this tool to more people.
May God’s grace abound and redefine the cognitive wilderness of dementia into an oasis of relationship, joy, peace, and extravagant love.