Getting started with your residents

Cartoon by Simon Kneebone showing a VR safe space

You’ve got your technology sorted, you’re feeling comfortable with the VR headsets. Now it’s time for a session with your residents!

Who can do VR?

If someone wants to have a VR experience, then support their curiosity and interest as best possible. Aged care residents who are cognitively and physically capable of participating, as assessed by the aged care facility, may also wish to complete a VR Profile form. You need to make sure residents are safe, and let them know they can stop the experience at any time by asking the facilitator or by taking the VR headset off. They are in control and can stop.

Taking a person-centred approach is required when placing aged care residents in VR. For example, a resident who was a former aircraft pilot and quite adept at using the controllers was comfortable navigating in First Steps, while other people may need more coaching.

An indoor floor space (2m x 2m) used for VR should be clear of obstacles, and provide enough space for head and arm movement – residents can be seated in their own room, a lounge or dining chair, or even in a theatre space.

During our project, we worked with people aged between 69-94 years, and encountered a couple of great examples where people who usually are not able to physically move or who experience some cognitive issues were able to enjoy the VR experience. In one case, a resident with mild dementia really enjoyed a nature experience swimming with dolphins. In another instance, someone who had advanced motor neurone disease did VR with staff. She shook a travel experience, and requested staff to remove her pillow so she could move her head to look around – she moved her head, something she does not usually do!!!

“Glenda was amazing, she absolutely loved it. She asked me to remove the cushion behind her head and she was moving her head all around. She amazed herself and me. She went hot air ballooning, and on a bus ride around Rome” Personal Support Worker

Identify a suitable space for the VR sessions

  • Select an indoor space with ample lighting (required for the VR Headsets’ sensors to work).
  • Each VR facilitator should guide a maximum of three (3) residents per session. For example, with two VR facilitators and three VR headsets, six residents is an appropriate number.
  • Provide enough seating for all residents to sit comfortably and have enough room for fully extending their arms in all directions. For the first few sessions, each participant should remain seated throughout the VR experience.
  • As well as individual sessions, you may also like to do small or medium group sessions with your residents.

Consider safety

  • Complete your occupational health and safety assessment.
  • Make sure you have a supply of anti-bacterial wipes and some spare silicon face covers.
  • Make sure people have enough space to move around, even if seated.

Schedule VR sessions for your residents

  • Schedule sessions.
  • Sessions should run for approximately 60-90 minutes.
  • As it can be tiring at first, residents should aim to stay in VR for 5-10 minutes, before having a break for 5-10 minutes.
  • Continue to ask residents how they are feeling. They will give you feedback on whether they want to stay in or be removed from the VR experience.