Walking into the dimly lit room greeted by tweeting bird sounds and a pleasant aroma coming from an incense infuser in the corner, you can see Eldon Lodge Rest Home in Paraparaumu's brand new sensory suite is welcoming and relaxing.

The idea of a sensory suite came at the start of last year when staff from Eldon saw a television story about another Oceania facility in Auckland which had installed one.

Eldon was interested and flew up two staff to check out the suite.

"On return we decided that we would give it a go, but do it our own way," said office manager Sharon Lockyer at the opening celebration last week.

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"It's been a big challenge but we've had a lot of fun doing it."

The sensory suite, among other things, allows residents to go on tours throughout the country through photographs shown through a projector.

Music is matched up with the projector using a Bluetooth speaker and Spotify which enables residents to experience either a trip back in time or a new reality.

At the opening of the suite, a light feature on the roof in the shape of a cloud was a hit with invited guests.

The idea came from a similar one in America which cost a whopping $3000.

Not wanting to give up the idea diversional therapist Holly Chapman decided they could make their own for a fraction of the price.

"We cut out the cloud, painted it and drilled holes to put Christmas lights through.

"The whole point is that it's a calm and relaxing space the residents can enjoy."

Other sensory elements include 'touchy-feely things,' a weight pack and gift boxes with different sensory objects inside meaning that there is still a lot for residents who cannot see to experience in the room.

Another inclusion, which Holly says is already a firm favorite is the robotic companion cats which move and purr when you pat them.

"We've had really good feedback so far and are looking to open it up to local schools after all our staff are fully trained up on how to use it.

"The room has only been open to our residents for about three weeks, but it is already being enjoyed by our residents who have a wide range of cognitive capabilities — from dementia patients, hospital residents and resthome residents — all have been enjoying the lovely space."

"It's frightful for the family having someone with dementia," Whitireia nursing lecturer Molly Page said.

"The ability to put something together that tells the story, not just for the person with dementia but for the family, to sit and share in watching, that has got to have such positive effects, for the family as well.

"The effects and positiveness is 10-fold.

"It's not just aimed at the single person but for the whole family."

Residents' experience:

"Some of our residents will come and spend time in the room, relaxing in the super comfy chairs, listening to their favourite music, and watching slideshows of photography of towns and nature around New Zealand projected onto the walls," Holly says.

"It brings people together, talking of places they have visited and things they have done.

"This is particularly fun for family members who can bring photos in on a USB stick which they can play and reminisce with their loved ones with their own personal photos of times gone by.

"Thanks to Spotify we can literally find anyone's favourite music immediately and play it to our residents, which adds to the overall experience.

"I brought one resident in here who suffers severe dementia and is unwell.

"We came in and I had the room forrest-themed with the bird sounds on and cedarwood oil in the diffuser.

"This resident, who most of the time has her eyes closed, suddenly opened her eyes, and was looking around the room, very alert and looked like she was taking in the experience.

"She never does that, so that was very cool.

"The next day I was speaking to her family and they said that makes sense because she used to love birds and loved watching them.

"That's what it's all about. It was very special."