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Social benefits of VR technology under the spotlight in residential aged care

7 February 2024
By Kate McDonald
SilVR Adventures' VR technology for older people.

Victoria’s Barwon Health has launched a new study into the social benefits of virtual reality experiences for people living with mild dementia in residential aged care.

The study, in association with Deakin University and technology developer SilVR Adventures, aims to address the social aspects of people living with mild dementia in residential aged care

Research fellow at Deakin’s Institute for Health Transformation Vanessa Watkins said the VR experiences had been selected specifically for older people at Barwon Health’s Alan David Lodge and Wallace Lodge.

They include a variety of virtual tours including to Ireland’s, the Eiffel Tower or familiar Australian landmarks.

“We have multiple headsets that can be used simultaneously, so these sessions can be undertaken as a group, enabling social interaction in a shared experience,” Dr Watkins told Barwon Health.

“Reminiscing and story sharing activities have been shown to have a positive impact on those living with mild dementia, so this project is implementing VR experiences and evaluating benefits for residential aged care residents.

“We have multiple headsets that can be used simultaneously, so these sessions can be undertaken as a group, enabling social interaction in a shared experience.”

The study is being supported with funding from Aged Care Research & Industry Innovation Australia (ARIIA) and will include interviews that explore residents’ experiences and perceptions of VR technology use.

The headsets are also being used by Eloura Aged Care Facility in Quirindi, NSW, in its lifestyle and wellbeing program. The interactive and personalised technology allows residents to get up-close-and-personal with unique locations, animals and scenery.

SilVR Adventures is also providing the technology for reminiscence therapy to support Alzheimer’s and dementia patients by helping them to revisit cherished memories through the use of photographs, video and music. This is being used at Garden Village in Port Macquarie, the company said.

It is also being used by UnitingCare Queensland, Bupa, Summerset Retirement Villages, Baptistcare, St Luke’s Eldercare and Keyton, as well as community care providers such as Australian Red Cross and Avivo.

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