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Skydiving into virtual reality
July 27, 2020
Australia’s international borders may be closed but there will be nothing shortly to stop Currie Park residents from skydiving onto the Serengeti Plain to taking a trip to outer space without leaving their armchairs.
Thanks to funding from Ian Currie Rollo Estate Foundation’s Caring for Rural Australians program, OCAV is about to introduce tailored immersive virtual reality experiences to Currie Park.
The virtual reality experience is the brainchild of Melbourne-based start-up SilVR Adventures and involves training OCAV staff to guide group sessions with residents, who each wear a VR headset, through a range of scenarios.
The aim of the program is to improve resident engagement and happiness and reduce isolation.
Hayley Stokes, Currie Park apartments’ supervisor, is looking forward to the training and then sharing experiences with residents. The experiences include reminiscence therapy to trigger memories and conversations, such as revisiting a childhood home or country, world travel and family bonding to allow residents to experience adventures together and visiting families and friends.
“We have found from previous VR experiences that residents taking part are enjoying sharing stories and getting to know each other better,” Hayley said.
SilVR is working in with two Sydney-based universities to research benefits from the virtual reality adventures. Results so far show that the technology has helped to improve memory and help mobility.
The SilVR connection continues Currie Park’s engagement with virtual reality.
Last year, residents and researchers from La Trobe University’s Department of Social Inquiry worked together to answer the question: does technology help improve well-being for older people and especially those in isolated areas and retirement villages. The findings were a loud yes!
Conducted by Raelene Wilding and Zoë Robertson, the research had four aims: to provide residents with an opportunity to engage with a novel recreational experience; gain insight into the effectiveness of VR technologies to support the social engagement of older people; create a preliminary co-design environment to identify improvements that could be introduced to future VR technologies designed specifically for people aged 65+ living in rural areas; and to evaluate the potential for VR to enhance social relationships and engagement of old Australians living in retirement village and assisted living contexts.
Four VR technologies, Kiosk, PlayStation, Oculus Go and Smartphone Headsets and over 50 experiences were tried and tested by participants.
Keith White, who had heart surgery two years ago, reckons he’s better now than he has ever been. He puts his state of health and well-being down to the life he has found at Currie Park, OCAV’s village in Euroa.