25 July 2022

'Hold on, grandma' - Virtual reality adventures thrill Goodwin aged care residents

| Katrina Condie
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Goodwin residents are having a blast on their virtual reality adventures. Photo: Goodwin.

Age is no barrier when it comes to diving with sharks, going on an African safari or walking through the bustling streets of Beijing … well, not if you’re a Goodwin aged care resident that is.

A new virtual reality adventure program is taking residents to places they’ve only ever dreamt about.

Goodwin lifestyle and leisure manager Abbie Dawson said residents had been blown away by the fully immersive experiences that have allowed them to swim with whale sharks, get up close with lions, and enjoy the spills of white water rafting and the thrill of skydiving.

“At first some of the residents were a bit hesitant about putting on the headsets, but once they tried it, they were amazed,” Abbie said.

“They’ve had an opportunity to step out of their comfort zones and try new things.”

The program, operated through Silver Adventures, also offers virtual tours to 17 countries.

“Many of the residents have enjoyed the city tours because they may have visited in the past and it’s brought back great memories,” Abbie said.

“They often comment about how they have been to that monument, or how much the city has changed over the years.”

After finishing their 40-minute digital tours, the residents debrief and expand on their adventures.

“They’ll talk about the places they’ve visited and the memories they have of a particular place,” Abbie said.

“We might have a tea ceremony after visiting China or bake Russian food for lunch to provide that full sensory experience.”

The virtual reality initiative has been rolled out across Canberra’s Goodwin aged care communities and provides a next level experience for residents.

“We offer a range of programs every day, but this is a big step up from playing ball games or doing word game challenges,” Abbie said.

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“The headsets actually allow the residents to look around up and down as they walk through the city, and they can create avatars so they can see the other people on the tour.

“Anyone that doesn’t want to wear the headsets, can watch the tour on a projector screen.”

The action-packed extreme adventures are loads of fun and bring a splash of excitement into the residents’ days.

“We’ve had residents that were a bit frightened by the technology, but finally after giving it a go, they’ve said it’s the best experience they’ve ever had,” Abbie said.

“The white water rafting experience splashes water in your face and you feel like you’re going up and down with the waves, it’s amazing.

“On the African safari you get up close with lions and it really feels like you’re there.”

Abbie said one resident, Betty, was happy she didn’t miss out.

“I was really worried about missing my daughter’s phone call, I just wanted to sit in my room and wait but I’m so glad I didn’t miss this opportunity,” Betty said.

“I don’t need to talk to my daughter, this has made my day.”

Goodwin residents

Goodwin lifestyle and leisure manager Abbie Dawson runs the virtual reality program for residents. Photo: Goodwin.

Goodwin’s home care support program clients are also being immersed in the latest digital technology.

The home support staff walk around various venues or sites in Canberra, such as Floriade, the botanic gardens or an exhibition at the National Gallery, and create videos for their clients.

“The videos often pique the client’s interest and prompt them to get out of the house and visit the venue,” Abbie said.

“It’s a bit of a taster so they can see what’s happening around Canberra.”

The home support program has a huge range of real-life and digital experiences on offer, from book clubs and museum tours, to trivia, exercise and meditation.

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The Goodwin team is committed to enhancing the lives of residents by providing stimulating, meaningful and innovative programs.

And the care goes way beyond laughing, socialising and having fun – residents can also get involved in planning, setting up and hosting activities and events for their friends.

“I’ve been really focussing on the benefits of giving residents roles or responsibilities within our activity program,” Abbie said.

“When residents first move into aged care, everything is done for them and they can sometimes lose their sense of purpose.

“So, when they take on the responsibility of running events for their community, there’s a sense of accomplishment and purpose, especially for those with cognitive impairments.

“For some people, this makes them feel like where they are living is not just their home but their community and, for most of us, it’s human nature to love helping others.”

A community-based, not for profit organisation, Goodwin has been providing the Canberra and regional community with experience-driven independent living villages, reliable and innovative in-home community care, and superior standard residential aged care facilities for more than 60 years.

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