Date of Award

2020

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Ministry (DMin)

First Advisor

Sharon H. Callahan

Second Advisor

Holly Christoferson

Third Advisor

Gordon Hilsman

Abstract

Virtual reality (VR) has the potential to transport people to compelling worlds and bring positive spiritual benefits to persons with dementia and their caregivers. The purpose of this qualitative phenomenological study was to understand the influence of VR on participants with indications of early stage dementia. This study explored how five elderly participants in a Seattle-based Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) program experienced immersive virtual reality by means of a Windows Mixed Reality headset. Using an episode from the 2016 VR series, theBlu—a colorful and immersive underwater experience with soothing audio accompaniment—each participant spent up to one hour with the researcher viewing the VR content and engaging in a pre- and post- interview to discuss their spirituality and VR experience. The participants’ responses were audio recorded, transcribed, and coded from a spiritual care perspective, searching for moments of joy and connection. The six emerging themes included: connection to positive feelings, connection to beauty, connection to the present moment, connection to past memories, a desire for future engagement, and participant recommendations for VR content. The findings demonstrated that immersive VR offers the possibility for people to explore a myriad of exciting and awe-inspiring worlds, bringing beauty and peace while offering relational connection.

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