I.In the living room of the Regina Mundi shelter in Lagos, 70-year-old Baba Rafael rises from a chair and puts on virtual reality headphones. For nine minutes, Raphael dances to the folk tones of his favorite singer, the late Ainla Amovura, while watching the video.

“Do you enjoy it?” One of Rafael’s staff asks. He does not answer without noticing while singing along.

For more than a year, art teacher Kunle Adevale has visited four nursing homes in the Nigerian city, taking VR kits and tablets, often isolated residents, delivering doses of therapeutic entertainment.

With headphones people can immerse themselves in songs, dances or physical education classes and even nature reserves. Some do digital art on tablets by creating illustrations or editing photos.

“It’s about giving them joy, that’s the most important thing that makes me happy,” Adewell says. “It brings something different to the day, to their routine. They just love music and feel it in a more powerful way. Some love dance classes. For some, we realized they wanted something more soothing, so we downloaded content for sound therapy to make them feel more relaxed. The amazing thing is that there are so many ways they can use and experience. ”

Arts teacher Kunle Adevale, at the center, began researching social therapy for the elderly after his stepmother suffered memory loss after a stroke. Photo: Temilad Adelaja / Reuters

The 40-year-old Adevale was teaching in elementary school when his mother, father and stepmother died within four years. “My stepmother had a stroke, then she lost her memory. She could no longer recognize us, so we tried to make her happy in different ways, such as singing songs. ” Her condition led him to engage in memory loss and “social therapy,” interactive ways of engaging people with mental illness.

“One of the things we kids have in our culture is the belief that ‘my parents did it all for me, so when the time comes, I’ll give it away.’ It is our culture to take care of our parents, but mine is not, so I pay others for it, ”he says.

Few of the residents of the home visit the family, which makes VR sessions a valuable form of interaction and activity.
Few of the residents of the home visit the family, which makes VR sessions a valuable form of interaction and activity. Photo: Kunle Adevale

In Regina Mundi Baba Festus with Down Syndrome performs an eclectic mix of movements during a dance lesson.

Mama Ibadan, a retired teacher, developed a flair for digital art; one of her works is exhibited in the living room. Another piece was recently sold.

Mama Bolanle from her wheelchair throws her head to the music – a rare sign of activity for a woman who hardly speaks. Officials say she has not seen her family for many years. “They quit and then hardly visited,” one said. “At one point, we learned that her daughter had moved to the United States without telling us or her mother.”

According to Regina Mooney’s manager, Catholic nun Antonia Adebavale, only three residents visit the family. “The biggest problem they face is loneliness. They are often brought here by families and dumped. You can see how it affects them, they become very closed. We try to support and encourage them, and this program also helps them become more active and engaged. ”

Nursing homes in Nigeria are hostile, Adebowele says, because of the cultural focus on family care for the elderly. “Your kids are like your heritage, so people feel that if you have kids, why should you stay alone in the house? This is a sensitive topic. “

This is changing among young people, a reality that is hard to accept for the older generation. “The transition is very difficult for them. We try to advise family members to come to them, not just throw them here, but it happens so often.

The rumble of fans and generators takes place around the house, where days go by a fixed routine during meals and prayers. Acts of kindness bring expected breaks. Volunteers sometimes send fabrics to make new clothes for residents, or sponsor special dishes, or come to visit like Kunle Adevale. “I firmly feel that these homes should not be a place where people feel lonely or abandoned. We must strive to find ways to help them become more active places where they can socialize and have dignity. ”

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