A man created a model of his grandma’s family home to help with her dementia. The grandma, 90-year-old was able to relive her childhood as she could see her family home once again, after it was brought down.
The grandma, Penny was put in isolation at a home care during the lockdown. This alarmed Mark Lewis Jackson, 37, as he thought the isolation would create more problems for his grandma.
Mark works at Place Jam as a Landscape Architect and Digital Placemaker. He decided to put his skills to good. He created something which not only brought joy to his grandma but, also an opportunity to go down the memory lane.
Penny was a resident of McDowall in Brisbane, Australia. Her home was demolished back in 2004 and this made it impossible for her to see any trace of the property to go down the memory lane. Anyhow, Mark used the old photographs and memories of his own of the house to build the virtual reality of the home. Mark’s inspiration for the work was the idea that this would help his grandma through the difficult times.
In an interview he said, “I heard about the social isolation facing those in care homes during the pandemic. I was lecturing at MMU [Manchester Metropolitan University] at the time, helping to run a module where we taught Masters Landscape Architecture students how to convert their masterplans into 3D VR experiences. There is value in visualizing a landscape design, but what about a place in time?”
He added, “I thought about my Granny stuck in her room in her care home, not even able to venture out into the communal garden during the pandemic. I recalled her love of the gardening and the large property she had lived at for over 25 years on Keona Road, Mcdowall, Brisbane. It had been demolished and subdivided in 2004, but with the digital tools available, I got to work on recreating the property.”
Further, he added, “I hoped it would provide some comfort to her. Psychologically I knew that a view of the natural environment would be beneficial, especially if it was of somewhere familiar to her. We often see very lavish locations depicted in VR, far-flung places and natural wonders of the world, but the ordinary suburban landscape can be more meaningful if it has personal connotations.”
Mark put the VR together during the early course of the lockdown. Though he wasn’t able to handover the gift personally to his grandma, he still got to see her reaction. The home care workers had recorded Penny’s reaction and said that she remembered the house. He showed the VR to his brother and received more ideas to make it perfect. His brother shared his memories to help Mark improve on the house.
Lastly, Mark said, “Early on in the process I wrote about the model for the Landscape Journal. This was prior to its completion and creation of the video. I created the term ‘surroscape’ to describe an artificial surrogate landscape, using Keona Road as an example. Surroscapes are not intended to replace real landscapes, it’s an aspect of the metaverse. As we continue to create digital twins of real-world spaces and experience it through extended reality, we will also benefit from the experience of these spaces prior to their ongoing physical development.”
In the end, Penny was able to see the VR in person and loved it.