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'Virtual' experience proves an emotional one at dementia awareness day in Haverhill

A dementia awareness day in Haverhill’s Market Square that gave people the chance to have a virtual experience of what it is like to live with dementia proved a moving one for many.

The event last Thursday was organised by Haverhill Community Care, the founders of the Memories are Golden Community Hub, for people with dementia.

At the centre of the day was a Virtual Dementia Tour Bus, run by Training2Care (UK) Ltd and sponsored jointly by AXA Insurance and Memories Are Golden, in which you could have a ten minute experience of dementia.

The team from Haverhill Community Care by the Dementia Tour Bus. Picture by Steve Barton
The team from Haverhill Community Care by the Dementia Tour Bus. Picture by Steve Barton

Nathalie Gilder, from Haverhill Community Care, said the day received a lot of positive feedback, with visitors saying it was ‘very informative’ particularly the virtual bus experience.

She added: “It was quite incredible to see the amount of people getting off the bus with tears in their

“We had a few people crying and they said ‘I wasn’t expecting it to make me feel like that’ and ‘it’s quite hard to imagine anyone having to live like this’.

“It was money well spent that 80 people were able to to go on and have that experience.”

Once on the bus, each person was given a pair of plastic, studded insoles to put in their shoes and a thick glove, with some of the fingers stitched together, to place on their writing hand, to replicate what it feels like to have peripheral neuropathy (damaged nerve endings), one of the effects of having dementia.

Participants also wore glasses through which the vision was reduced, similar to macular degeneration and wore a pair of headphones through which audio mass was played. This produced a continuous jumble of noise that replicated how indistinguishable near and distant sounds can be to people who have dementia.

Nathalie said she now hopes to be able to get the virtual tour bus back to Haverhill so more people can try it out, but next time with each session lasting longer than ten minutes.

Also at the event were representatives from the Voluntary Network, Haverhill Dementia Action Alliance, Haverhill LifeLink, a Sue Ryder Dementia Navigator, St Nicholas Hospice Care and a team of volunteers and staff from Haverhill Community Care, who ran a tombola and a cake stall that raised £455 towards the refurbishment of the community hub.

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