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Virtual-reality experiences are being evaluated in nursing homes to help residents feel better

A group of residents of a nursing home in Queensland is witnessing a range of virtual experiences, from riding buses across Europe to swimming with fishes. Living in a nursing home has been difficult since the COVID-19 pandemic started. The danger of becoming ill from COVID, separation from relatives and friends, and insufficient resources are mostly problems that have frequently made headlines.

An Australian study group is trying to test a unique model which will not help address some of these institutional concerns. However, it is working hard to help make the lives of nursing home residents more fruitful and enjoyable through VR offerings.

June Hackwood, an Arcare Pimpama resident, said that she enjoyed being a part of the virtual reality experience. She particularly enjoyed the simulated experience of swimming among dolphins.

Previous research has gazed into whether VR technology can lead to improvements to the mood of nursing home residents, and whether there are reductions in the levels of apathy within them. Researchers have also delved into some of the possible problems that have to be addressed. The team is now putting its efforts into the Transforming Aged Care with Virtual Reality venture. It lays stress on finding out how virtual reality can be used more widely across different care homes.

Evonne Miller, a design psychology researcher at Queensland University of Technology (QUT), stated that there are older people in aged care who can’t have guests and are not able to leave. She said that these problems have become more pronounced especially during COVID times. According to her, now is the most suitable time to employ innovations such as virtual reality to allow individuals to have such interactions without needing to leave the limits of a facility.

This project has already encompassed three aged-care homes in Queensland, with some of them in Victoria not being able to participate due to hurdles created by COVID. However, these institutions can join the programme later in the year.

The researchers purchased Meta Quest 2 headsets with a sizable charitable fund sourced from Meta, the parent company of Facebook. They have relied on some free programmes like YouTube VR and Alcove VR, along with a range of games to help the residents stay occupied, when they need something to do.

Simon Lowe, the co-founder of The Ageing Revolution, and one of the field researchers, said that the entire presumption was to ensure that the technology could be used in aged care.

The team had to modify the equipment to make it easier to put on and take off by incorporating a separate clasp. After that, they enter a process where they test out the solution, re-testing it, and repeat the steps multiple times. This was done with the involvement of individuals who are afflicted by various cognitive and mobility problems.

Numerous elderly folks were open to the experience. Many of them even conveyed pleasure from experiences that took them on tours and helped them explore different places virtually.

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