Once you have introduced VR into aged care, residents will most likely want to do it often! So – alongside incorporating VR into existing leisure activity programming led by paid staff – you may consider asking families and volunteers to run VR activities. Families, for example, may find that doing VR with their loved one is a novel and exciting activity to do together – so we recommend making the VR headsets available for families to use during visits. Taking photos of residents in VR and sharing them via a community noticeboard is also a great way to get everyone involved!
“I didn’t do the session last week. But I heard everybody talking about it so I thought I’d give it a go.” Muriel, 94.
VR can also help create better connections between staff, residents, and each other – for example, in one session, where residents shared what they would like to experience in VR (from a camel ride on Cable Beach, shark-fishing off Western Australia, to visiting Yosemite National Park in California), there was a lively conversation about how the virtual travel caused users to remember and share travel stories from their past. They also talked about places they still wished to go and things they wanted to do: VR can positively transform their aged care experience.
With the correct training, volunteers could also easily run a VR session – and you could incentivise volunteers (and staff) by letting them know they have completed “VR Ready for Aged Care” training. You might also consider reaching out to local schools, to see if students might be interested in running VR sessions (e.g., as par of the voluntary service component for Duke of Edinburgh) for residents. Potentially, fellow residents or retirement village residents may also be able and interested in running some sessions. VR is generally safe, but visitors should engage with appropriate health and safety protocols, and any facility-specific rules.
Residents can and should be the greatest advocate for VR – you will find that some residents are reluctant to try VR, as it may seem “scary” and “not for me”. When you find those few people who really love it, get them to act as advocates of the program, and they’ll “rope more people” into your VR program!