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Virtual Aquariums A Key Talking Point For The Elderly

Bethanie has recently installed five virtual aquariums at their Bethanie Waters Aged Care Home in Port Kennedy. Within the 160-bed facility, there are two aquariums within the Dementia secure wing, one in the dining room and one in the lounge, as well as one within the main lounge of the other three Aged Care Home wings.

The virtual aquariums are wall-mounted and with the click of a wireless mouse, you can add and delete fish from a drop-down menu of 40 varieties. You can also feed the fish either automatically, manually or at timed intervals.

Bethanie Waters Occupational Therapist Skye Scantlebury says, “Within the dementia wing residents are sitting in front of the aquarium and calmly watching the screen. Some residents will walk up to the screen and point to the fish showing they are watching and following what the fish are doing.

“The aquariums also give staff an opportunity to engage residents in conversation during meals or when they are handing out morning/afternoon tea. The residents who choose to sit in the dining room between meals appear more engaged by watching the fish tank.”

Within the Aged Care Home, the aquariums provide a great talking point amongst residents, chatting about their colours or what they are up to. Skye adds, “Residents do sometimes start talking about past experience with fishing or how much they like to eat fish when engaged in conversation with staff in front of the virtual aquariums.”

The virtual aquariums have been made available in Western Australia via Linton Chapman, Managing Director of Astro Digital. The software program was developed by Alan Keplar, a 10-year veteran of computer visual effects work who has received an Academy Award for Technical Achievement for work on major films such as Day After Tomorrow, Fellowship of the Rings and Stealth.

His love of fish drew him to developing the program, initially to be used as a computer screen saver. As licensees of the screen saver, it was the genius idea from the technical team at Astro Digital, here in Western Australia, who further configured the program to attach to the latest Smart 43”-65” High Definition LED TV’s.

Managing Director at Astro Digital, Linton Chapman said, “We enhanced the finished product with beautiful Frames on the TV in many colours and styles to suit existing décor.”

Studies from the University of Exeter in the UK show that watching aquariums offer significant reductions in both blood pressure and heart rate, as well as improving eating and general behavioural conditions.

Linton adds, “So far in Bethanie, they seem to be very well received and providing an exciting talking point amongst customers.”

Bethanie now has virtual aquariums operating at Bethanie Waters, Bethanie Fields and Bethanie Joondanna, with more expected to be installed across other sites.

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