Calming and stimulating the senses of visitors with an interactive smart wall, virtual-reality headset, running water, scents and various natural materials, the room was piloted at Kustaankartano Senior Centre in Helsinki in 2020.
The multi-sensory experience was shown to reduce the use of antidepressants and feelings of anxiety and depression in elderly people with memory disorders. Their health became more stable and cognitive skills more sound following a session in room, whereas the virtual-reality nature experience reduced restlessness and promoted relaxation while causing no fear or anxiety.
Jaana Pilvinen, head nurse at Kustaankartano Senior Centre, stated that every session in the room and with the headset had an impact on the visitor’s sense memory.
“Working with clients with memory disorders is all about living in the moment, and those moments are difficult to measure,” she said. “Even if they cannot remember the session afterwards, the moment was special for them and the people with them. The sensory room clearly helped people with memory disorders to manage their anxiety and depression.”
The pilot was carried out as part of Co-created Health and Wellbeing, a project that brings together municipalities and companies to co-create and utilise new technologies to develop smart customer-oriented healthcare services, described Peeter Lange, the project manager at Forum Virium Helsinki.
“Smart technologies have allowed us to improve the quality of life of older people living in service homes in many ways and facilitate the work of care staff, for example. Technologies also free up people’s time, which can be better spent interacting with others,” he said.
The multi-sensory room has already been replicated in Oulu and Tampere. Perhaps the most noteworthy indicator of its impact, however, is that its permanent implementation is being planned by Kustaankartano Senior Centre.