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Swimming with the dolphins, going on safari, exploring Paris by foot, being dazzled by the Northern Lights – around Australia and New Zealand, aged care residents are living it large thanks to virtual reality technology.
SilVR Adventures was founded by Colin Pudsey, whose tech background helped him come up with a genius solution for tackling the feelings of depression and isolation aged care residents can feel.
SilVR contains a library of adventures for the viewer to go on, with sessions run collectively in aged care residences. “Each resident is visiting the same place in their headset, but each can look around independently, so it’s very immersive,” says Colin.
“Sessions are designed as stories that stimulate memories and drive social interaction and connection.”
There are three key types of experiences:
- Reminiscence Therapy – “To trigger memories and conversations, such as revisiting a childhood home or country they emigrated from,” says Colin.
- Travel the World – “To leave the walls of the community and create social interaction between fellow residents.”
- Family Bonding – “To allow for residents to experience these adventures with their visiting family members.”
Aged care facilities and senior living communities purchase the equipment, so there’s no limit to how many sessions can run. Staff receive training in how to use the technology. “We offer a complete turnkey solution to provide care homes and teams with everything required to run their own group virtual reality sessions in-house,” says Colin.
That’s meant that as areas went into lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there were still ways for residents to get ‘out and about’. “It actually made the experience even more valuable, as external activity providers have access restrictions to facilities, yet our customers can still offer their residents a hugely diverse range of activities and socially distance too,” says Colin.
From a woman too scared to fly on an aeroplane in real life who then ‘jumped’ from a plane over VR with her friends, to a 99-year-old who never misses her VR sessions, Colin says the positive impact has been heartening.
And a VR tour of India proved to be a powerful reminder that virtual reality can be more than just a bit of fun or novelty. Colin recalls seeing one woman quietly crying after the India tour session.
“I sat down next to her and asked why she was upset,” says Colin. “She told us that she was from a prominent Chinese family and raised in Hong Kong. Her daughter had married an Indian man, and this was not acceptable for her or the family as they believed people from India were beneath them. The man was never fully accepted into the family and her relationship with her daughter eroded too.”
“After visiting India in VR, the woman had felt overwhelmed with guilt that they had treated the man this way, and for the lost time with her daughter. She said she could not believe she’d once thought he was less than her because he was from India, when it was so beautiful.”
“She said her perceived judgements were through lack of knowledge and ignorance, and that it proved it was never too late to learn,” says Colin.
“She thanked us for giving her this opportunity to visit the man’s homeland.”
“It was incredibly humbling and moving, especially since she’d lived at the home for over 10 years and none of the care team nor fellow residents had heard this story before, or even knew the lady had a daughter.”
First written for Daily Care.