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In this article, we look how VR is used in aged care to provide immersive experiences that enhance cognitive stimulation, promote relaxation, and improve the overall well-being of elderly individuals.
Gone are the days when the thought of aged care facilities conjured up images of drab, beige hallways, deserted common rooms and a gloomy atmosphere hanging heavy in the air.
With Australia’s over 65’s population growing rapidly, the need for progressive establishments offering socially and emotionally fulfilling programs for residents is fast becoming the number one focus for both care providers and families alike. Debilitating lockdowns during the pandemic shone a spotlight on the effects that social isolation and loneliness can have on our wellbeing, and indeed how those effects can be amplified for residents in care homes. When VR is used in aged care, it can go a long way towards helping feelings of isolation among elderly communities.
How VR is used in aged care
In many cases, we’ve seen that both technology and the way that VR is used in aged care can play a part in enriching the lives of older adults who may be feeling isolated. Virtual reality technology can really change the narrative of aged care living, and SilVR Adventures is leading the application of Virtual Reality to the ageing population.
Virtual reality (VR) is a simulated environment that looks and feels incredibly realistic. Unlike a computer or tablet which has a fixed field view, virtual reality headsets adapt to your head movements. This means that the wearer is immersed in a rich 360-degree, 3D environment. Users have access to an ever-growing library of immersive stories specifically tailored to older adults which include landmarks, nature, bucket list experiences, music, history, wellness and reminisce therapy.
Sullen common rooms transform into vibrant landscapes and the seven wonders of the world – take a walk through any of the residential care homes using this new technology and sombre silence is replaced with ‘ooh’s, ‘aaah’s’ and animated chatter –
“It reminds me of when my late husband and I travelled many years ago.. this was such a happy time.”
Whether it’s a trip to see the spectacular Great Wall of China or something more personal like a childhood home, the way that VR is used in aged care can allow users to visit new places and relive memories. Connections are created, experiences are shared, and emotions are stimulated – this is much more than an entertaining novelty, and the numbers back it up.
Over a 12-month pilot program across multiple sites with UnitingCare Queensland, SilVR Adventures’ VR solution proved a huge success: 85% of customers have said that the use of virtual reality sessions as therapy has helped to significantly drive social engagements. 89% of residents said they would like to use VR again, and 91% would recommend it to their friends.
SilVR Adventures’ Founder Colin Pudsey is dedicated to building technologies and services that improve the lives and wellbeing of ageing people and their caregivers. ‘Our mission has always been to reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation among seniors while driving social engagement.’
Following a successful introduction of their VR platform into residential aged care facilities across ANZ, Singapore and the UK, SilVR Adventures continues to expand in 2023 with upcoming research into the benefits of VR Therapy on dementia in collaboration with Deakin university, and expansion into disability/community care and hospice settings.
Virtual reality is not just for gamers anymore. The way that VR is used in aged care can go a long way towards lighting up the faces and hearts of our most vulnerable citizens – bringing joyful, meaningful experiences to those who are in desperate need of connection… and it’s here to stay.
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