Page 13 - Scene Magazine May 2021 46-05
P. 13

 Local Interest
BY TIM MITCHELL Senior Care Partners
   P.A.C.E.
 Eighty-one-year-old Georgina was born with a spirit of adventure that nev- er left her. She has always been a free spirit and isn’t used to being tethered by limitations of any sort. After retiring from a career in nursing, she and her husband lived on a boat for eight years, sailing from Canada to Panama. When they returned, they went camping in the Pacific Northwest every summer. They kept up this freedom-loving pace until their bodies became much less resilient over the last couple of years.
vacation. For about $1,000 (possibly less depending on the company) per year a senior can obtain the virtual reality hardware, a library of content, and customer and technical support. There are currently thousands of seniors enjoying these virtual destinations across the country and around the world enabling them to stream more than 200 virtual travel, recreation, music, and arts experiences in the convenience of their own home.
 Sadly, Georgina’s husband passed away last year, and she now must rely on a walker, which has greatly limited her ability to go long distances. In fact, she has no interest in getting on a plane or being dependent on someone else to push her in a wheelchair. It appeared Georgina’s opportunity for travel had come to an end. That is, until she was introduced to a new way to enjoy new world-wide excursions.
widow, was able to virtually visit the home where she grew up after not seeing it for decades. The astonishment on her face when she recognized the street on which she once lived gave way to tears as she caught a glimpse of the house in which she grew up and she was suddenly filled with the warmth of memories of her mother, father, and siblings.
Prior to the pandemic, Senior Care Partners P.A.C.E. had a few staff mem- bers experience and evaluate a virtual reality system for older adults. The response was extremely positive and it is possibly a technology the organiza- tion may incorporate into their recre- ational therapy program at some time
in the future. While there are no current budgeted plans for this technology in the immediate future, it may be possible that participants will be able to have vacation destination experiences at the centers through virtual reality at some time in the more distant future.
Despite all of her physical limita- tions, Georgina was recently able to explore a few European cities and other tourist destination spots in various parts of the world. While she was not able
to be there physically, she was there mentally and emotionally thanks to the technology of virtual reality. Originally designed for the gaming industry to give much younger people the feeling of being inside their video game, the technology has evolved over the last several years to have much broader applications.
Georgina said, “The first time I tried it I saw a city in Spain. We were right in the city square, and there was a tourist who walked right in front of me! She was so close I could’ve touched her!
I thought that was wonderful!” She added, “It takes you out of your own environment and puts you somewhere else,” It’s very pleasurable to go back and see things that you love but you can’t get to anymore.”
In the meantime, in addition to providing quality health care for older adults, Senior Care Partners P.A.C.E.
is enhancing the lives of participants through other recreational experiences at the centers including such things as live and online music entertainment, gardening and relaxation on the patio, cognitively stimulating games, karaoke, and a variety of interesting activities planned by the Recreational Therapy Department. Many participants consider attending activities at the four Senior Care Partners P.A.C.E. locations in Battle Creek, Albion, Kalamazoo, and Portage to be a “destination” filled with many friends, activities, and specialized care. One participant recently stated, “I feel safe here.” Another said, “I look forward to each day I get to come to the center to spend time with my friends.”
Virtual reality isn’t just for gamers anymore. The same technology that lets users battle monsters in mythical worlds has proven useful for everything from overcoming phobias and practicing sur- gical procedures to getting a look inside the International Space Station.
Virtual reality companies focusing exclusively on seniors are quickly finding their way into the lives of older adults, especially those living in senior living communities. Their aim is to provide an escape from the doldrums of everyday life and even create a point of connection with family members.
And now it is allowing older adults, who can no longer travel, to be able
to enjoy places in the world they have always wanted to visit. Where do you want to go? The Grand Canyon? Per- haps Paris? Or possibly something as simple as visiting the home and neigh- borhood where you grew up?
One virtual reality app allows seniors to meet up with their family members in a virtual space so they can chat as they would in real life. As long as all family members have headsets, seniors can pop into a virtual world to share memories, play games, go on an adventure, and even sit back and watch TV.
To learn more about how you
can make Senior Care Partners P.A.C.E. a fun and helpful destination for you or a family member, please call (269) 441-9319 or visit www. seniorcarepartnersmi.org.
Mary, an eighty-three-year-old
A single-user license for a virtual reality platform costs less than a typical
Virtual Reality Destinations for Seniors with Limitations
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