Virtual reality or VR has entered our language and it seems may also enter in many facets of our lives, now and in the future.
BlueCross in Melbourne is the first aged care provider in Australia to offer virtual reality experiences at all of its residential aged care homes.
Alan Lily, Chief Executive of Blue Cross was quick to respond, saying ‘Virtual reality is the way of the future, an exciting way to enjoy new experiences or relive old ones.’
The Solis program aims to provide residents living with dementia, the opportunity to reminisce and communicate. A collaboration between BlueCross staff, the families of the residents and BuildVR, has resulted in the first aged care specific virtual reality application.
The program utilises, a smart phone, goggles and blue tooth headphones, to bring a 360-degree immersive experience to residents. Staff and family can simultaneously enjoy the same experience by watching on a tablet. This way a shared experience can be discussed and aids connection between parties.
The Solis program will be introduced to all residents during Alzheimer’s Australia Dementia Awareness Month in September. More information can be found here: www.bluecross.com.au
The applications for VR are endless. A 2016 initiative by Alzheimer’s Australia, resulted in an immersive education session which featured, VR technology aptly named EDIE (Educational Dementia Immersive Experience).
The interactive workshop undertaken by Regis Aged Care (Victoria) Lifestyle staff, was principally designed to increase their awareness of the challenges faced by people living with dementia.
Alzheimer’s Australia has been active in the space of virtual reality since 2013, and worked with Deakin Software and Technology Innovation Laboratory (DSTIL) to develop EDIE. The smartphone app is available free on iTunes and Google Play. More information is available here: https://www.dementia.org.au/learning/centre-for-dementia-learning/edie-educational-dementia-immersive-experience
The World Health Organisation advocates active ageing, identifying health, participation and security as three key factors that enhance quality of life.
VR can offer a personalised experience, targeted to the specific life experiences and interests of an individual. It will be fascinating to see how emerging technologies and innovative and entrepreneurial companies, develop and target VR applications for the aged care sector.
Will it ever replace the power of human contact? Perhaps not, however it may enable your loved one in another country, to share experiences with their grandchildren and help to keep the thread of connection alive and in turn assist the older person to maintain greater cognitive function.