Where would you go if you could travel anywhere in the world? Maybe you’d choose to scale a glacier in Alaska, walk with elephants on the African planes, explore the magic of Disneyworld or even revisit your childhood home.
Seniors at Wingate Residences at Norton are getting to do that and more with the help of Rendever virtual reality. Rendver, a start-up company founded by two MIT graduates, uses Samsung Gear VR headsets to take residents to both familiar and foreign places. Christine Henry, the community’s activities director, acts as the expedition guide, ushering residents through different landscapes and simulations via a control tablet. If residents want to take a trip to Mexico, Christine abides: she can pick pre-programmed trips to Mexico, Brazil, famous national parks, world-renowned museums and more. The simulations also include narration features, complementing the guided tours with historical facts and information about prominent landmarks and the environment of the landscape. And if residents wax nostalgic and want to revisit old haunts, Christine can take them there — all she has to do is plug in the address.
Residents ultimately control their VR experiences. By moving their heads side to side or up and down, they can see and explore different scenery and spaces within the simulation. The best part: they’re doing it safely. No matter their mobility, they can trek through forests, stroll along beaches or hike up mountains; they can also interact with the wild animals encountered there without fear of harm.
Wingate has only recently rolled out this VR program at select communities, but the response from residents, family members and community staff has been overwhelmingly positive. Not only has the program transformed residents’ abilities to travel, it’s transformed the notion of resident engagement at senior living communities. Christine says she loves leading these sessions because she gets to witness the residents’ reactions of awe and wonder. Oftentimes, resident reach out to touch animals as though they’re standing in the room with them or remark at the changes that have occurred in once familiar neighborhoods.
Wingate hopes to introduce this program to more communities in the near future, and explore other ways in which VR technology can be used to engage residents and enhance their senior living experience. Soon, residents’ family members will be able to borrow 360-degree cameras from Wingate communities to capture footage from vacations, weddings and family gatherings that residents can’t attend. Residents will then be able to experience the events with the VR headsets as though they were there. For now, Norton residents are eagerly awaiting their next VR trips — no suitcases, passports or plane tickets required.
So taken with this innovative program, The Sun Chronicle and Norton Cable Access visited Wingate Residences at Norton to get a firsthand look at what virtual reality can do for seniors. Watch the video below and check out the feature published in the Sun Chronicle here.