JF&CS Hosts Virtual Dementia Tour

May 30, 2023

JF&CS Hosts Virtual Dementia Tour

Above photo: Lauri Cohen and Ashley Maloy of Agewell Atlanta after the tour

On May 16, the Aviv Older Adult Services team of JF&CS hosted a Virtual Dementia Tour, which is an evidence-based, patented program designed to allow participants to experience what dementia is like through an individualized, experiential tour. The tour was brought to us by Ginger King of Orchard Brookhaven Senior Living, and was staffed by volunteers from senior living facilities and placement agencies. Caretakers of loved ones with dementia as well as JF&CS staff were invited to participate in the experiment.

Calvin Matthews, JF&CS Operations Specialist, was one of many JF&CS employees to participate in the tour.

My Tour Experience

By Rebecca Cochran, JF&CS Marketing Communications Specialist

To begin the tour, my physical senses were altered. My hands went into two sets of gloves to mimic fumbling. Plastic inserts in my shoes poked the bottoms of my feet sharply. Goggles altered my vision to feel cloudy, dark and distorted. Headphones played a constant stream of auditory distraction which included white noise, people talking, and the occasional siren.

A volunteer led me into a dark, messy room. Clothing, photographs, and household items were arranged on tables in ways that felt nonsensical. I was aware that the man leading me into the room was talking to me, but the noises in the headphones were so loud and distracting that I made out only one word — “jacket.” I understood that I was given an assignment — only I had no idea what it was.

I knew logically that I was participating in a dementia simulation designed to provoke frustration and confusion, but it was still a surprise when those feelings began to happen. I couldn’t ask for help, I couldn’t make sense of the instruction, and I began acting very much like a person with dementia; I fumbled with objects, struggled to see, and jumped at loud sounds. When the observers later gave me a record of my actions, I learned that I was also shuffling my feet, humming, and talking to myself. Time felt like it dragged on until I was released from the augmented reality and allowed to be myself again. When I debriefed with other participants, the most apt word to describe my experience was “jarring.”

Now, I look back on the experience with gratitude. I learned so much in a short amount of time, and my empathy for those suffering from dementia increased tenfold. I am not currently in the position of caring for anyone with dementia, but I know that should the situation arise, I would be better equipped to handle it than before I experienced the Virtual Dementia Tour.


Quality of life for the population suffering from dementia is greatly dependent on their caretakers and facilities. The Virtual Dementia Tour allows participants to learn more about how dementia affects the brain, gives tips and ideas for improving care, and perhaps most importantly builds empathy for a disability that is increasingly affecting the population. According to Columbia University, nearly 10% of U.S. adults ages 65 and older have dementia, and another 22% live with mild cognitive impairment. Building awareness and empathy for the experience of dementia now will help ensure quality care in the coming years.

For more details on the Virtual Dementia Tour, visit www.secondwind.org.

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