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A Day of Inspiration and Collaboration: Recap of the VR-SIM Carers Knowledge Mobilization Summit

The morning of June 24th began with a warm welcome for caregivers, VR innovators, and dementia care researchers at the Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences.

A light breakfast and networking session fostered connections, setting the stage for a day of knowledge exchange. The summit officially commenced with a land acknowledgment, recognizing the traditional territories on which the event was held. Opening remarks followed from key figures, including Mr. Ron Beleno and Ms. Carla Velastegui (Co-Chairs of VR-SIM Carers Caregiver Advisory Committee), Dr. Heather McNeil (National Research Council Aging in Place Program Advisor), and Dr. Amer Burhan (Ontario Shores Physician-in-Chief & Endowed Chair, Applied Mental Health Research), emphasizing the summit's importance in advancing dementia care through VR technology.

Credit: Ron Beleno, VR-SIM Carers Caregiver Advisory Committee Co-Chair

A captivating panel discussion titled "Virtual Reality as an AgeTech Tool: Showcasing VR in Canada – Research to Clinical Application" was moderated by Mr. Beleno and featured leading Canadian VR researchers and innovators. Panelists Dr. Lora Appel (York University, caregiVR), Mr. Tyler Redublo (The Centre for Aging + Brain Health Innovation, CABHI), Dr. Marie Savundranayagam (Western University, Be-EPIC VR study), Dr. Raheleh Saryazdi (Trent University Durham/UHN, VRx@Home), and Dr. Winnie Sun (Ontario Tech University, VR Reminiscence Therapy) showcased VR innovations for dementia care. A recorded presentation by Ms. Joey Wong from the University of British Columbia's IDEA Lab, led by Dr. Lillian Hung, enriched the discussion.

Following a coffee break, attendees awaited the live demonstration of the VR-SIM Carers prototype. Mr. Michael Smith (National Research Council Canada) shared a video on the technological considerations behind the prototype. Excitement grew as guest caregiver Ms. Maria Vilas (Founder, Santé Mentale en Avant) donned the VR headset to navigate an "Apathy" scenario. This demonstration sparked a lively discussion facilitated by Mr. Beleno, with two of our highly qualified personnel (HQPs) Refka Al-bayati and Andrei Torres. 

Dr. Luca Pisterzi (VP Research, Alzheimer Society of Canada) delivered closing remarks, emphasizing the significance of VR-SIM Carers in empowering caregivers. After lunch, attendees participated in breakout sessions, experiencing the "Apathy" scenario and providing feedback. The summit concluded with remarks by Mr. Beleno, marking the end of a successful day of collaboration and innovation in dementia care through VR technology.

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