Virtual reality pilot helps residents tick off their ‘bucket lists’

Virtual reality pilot helps residents tick off their ‘bucket lists’

An exciting new pilot program with Samsung Australia is helping residents from five of Uniting’s aged care home ‘tick off’ their bucket lists through immersive virtual reality (VR) experiences.

Current studies are investigating emerging applications of VR in healthcare, including for dementia patients and pain management. The partnership between Samsung and Uniting will looks at how immersive technology like virtual reality can help offer positive wellbeing, reduce isolation and support social integration, for both aged care and dementia patients who reside with Uniting.

The five pilot sites for the program include Annesley house in Haberfield, Uniting Amala in Gordon, Uniting Bowen Brae Gardens in Normanhurst and Uniting Wontama in Orange and Uniting Caroona jarman in Goonellabah in regional NSW.

Dreams into reality

A number of residents at each home will be able to select an experience from their personal ‘bucket list’ that they’ve always wanted to achieve, but didn’t think possible. Samsung will then source content that corresponds to their request and create a virtual reality experience for them to enjoy.

The idea for the pilot was created following an immersive VR experience provided by Samsung in January 2018 when Mirinjani resident in Canberra – Berenice Benson – held a long-term dream to visit New York and meet a NY police officer. Her dream became a (virtual) reality and since her experience, staff have shared Berenice loves chatting to other residents about her experience.

Inspired Care

As the launch of the program last week, Executive Director Tracey Burton said: “Uniting has seen how new and emerging technologies can give back independence to our residents and we’re delighted to partner with Samsung. Together we believe we can brighten many residents’ days and fulful unlived dreams.”

“Our relationship with Samsung is about technology experiences but it offers so much more to our residents. Our approach to aged care reflects our ‘Inspired Care’ model, where our teams spend the time to get to know each resident. Each home has a Lifestyle Manager who learns what every resident enjoys, and plans activities accordingly. Our model provides more control and flexibility to our residents.”

Living a day in the life of a resident with dementia

Another important educational aspect of the pilot gives carers the virtual experience of Living a day in the life of a resident with dementia. It is expected that this innovative approach will help improve care plans by providing a deeper understanding of the stress, confusion and disorientation residents experience while also identifying new ways of interacting and engaging with residents.

New adventures help reduce stress and boredom

Associate Professor, Nick Brennan from our Uniting War Memorial Hospital, said: “Using virtual reality technology in this way can give dementia residents and older Australians new adventures which they could not otherwise achieve due to mobility or health problems. Studies suggest that virtual reality can have a therapeutic effect and stimulate the brain. Providing new adventures for these patients can help to reduce stress and boredom and creates new ways for them to interact with their peers.”

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