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Wednesday, March 1, 2017

New technology from Sherborne farm brings countryside to dementia and Parkinson's sufferers

By Daniel Mumby  |  Posted: March 01, 2017

Props including a vibrating tractor rig wheel, hot lamp and a video are being used in a ground-breaking project to allow people living with dementia or Parkinson's disease to enjoy the countryside wherever they are.
Julie Plumley founded Future Roots ten years, providing help and support for around 100 young people each week, as well as assisting people with dementia through her weekly Countrymen's Club.
After her father became bedridden, she began working on a new way to offer support for people with long-term illnesses who are no longer able to experience the great outdoors.
Her work has now come to fruition with the launch of Seasons in a Box, which was unveiled at Future Roots' base in Holnest, a few miles outside Sherborne.
Engineers from British Gas and Jaguar Land Rover were involved in the project

Seasons in a Box uses video, 3D sound and different physical props to simulate a day in the life of a farmer, from brewing the first cup of tea to milking cattle and driving a tractor.
The props, including a vibrating tractor wheel rig and a machine which simulates cows being milked, were especially manufactured to make the experience as realistic as possible.
fter Ms Plumley contacted national disability charity Remap (which has branches in Yeovil and Dorchester) for assistance, they brought in engineers with British Gas and Jaguar Land Rover to make the project a reality.
Ms Plumley said: "The aim of the product is to bring the outside indoors to people who are no longer able to get out and about due to illness or disability. They no longer see the natural environment and feel the sensory impact of the seasons.
I developed and designed the idea because my dad is a farmer and can no longer get out; he is bedridden and has very late stages of Parkinson's.
"Farming activities, sounds and smells bring him to life, and I don't want him to be removed from it."
The project is designated to recreate all aspects of farming life, with a hopper for spreading corn and a gas lamp which provides the feeling of the hot midday sun on the user's head.
The video - which is related through a tablet - is designed to mimic the person's vision, and tracks their movements when they are in the tractor section so they can choose what part of the landscape they want to view.
All four seasons can be experienced through the technology, from the icy cold of a winter's morning to the bright sun of a midsummer's day.
The project is being evaluated with Essex University to objectively measure its health benefits, with a view to rolling it out into care homes and other residential institutions, bringing the sounds and smells of the countryside to people who may never have visited a farm in their life.
Ms Plumley said: "I am hoping the product will help many people stuck in a home besides dad, other farmers or country people.
"When you have Parkinson's, or dementia, or you've had a stroke, any sort of stimulation is going to keep you going - it will make you think, make you remember memories from the past."
Dan Hodgson, who moved to Sherborne in the 1970s, has lived with Parkinson's disease for five years, and was present at the launch to try out the equipment.
He said: "I've been coming here since I was diagnosed, and I think it's excellent.
"It will be great for people who aren't able to get outside - it feels like you're really there."
For more information about Seasons in a Box, call 01963 210703.

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