Virtual reality technology lets long-term care residents experience different world


Gerald Hardychuk has used a wheelchair for 15 years. The 50-year old Kelowna, B.C., man has multiple sclerosis (MS) and lives at the Cottonwoods Extended Care Home.“Before he got his multiple sclerosis, he was incredibly active,” said Taryn Millway, Hardychuk’s sister. “He did so many things, physically and sports wise.”But Hardychuk is now able to experience some of the things he used to love doing along with new things thanks to newly acquired technology.“It’s called Rendever Virtual Reality (VR) and it is an immersive virtual reality platform,” said Lauren Knapton, one of the clinical rec therapists at Cottonwoods. Story continues below advertisement Virtual reality allows people to put on a headset and experience a vast range of activities — anything from travelling around the world and sightseeing to walking through a forest and extreme sports like skydiving and rock climbing.The technology gives users as close of an experience as possible to the real thing.“Fishing, hunting, kayaking, diving with dolphins, safaris, basically anything,” said Knapton. 1:37 What it’s like to experience virtual reality for the first time IH started using virtual reality in 2020 during the pandemic as a way to support people feeling isolated due to a lack of social interaction. Trending Now “It was a way that we could bring the outside world in, and allow our residents to have these moments of joy that they wouldn’t have, especially over COVID. and we’ve kind of just been rolling it out ever since,” Knapton said. Story continues below advertisement The technology is now used in 19 Interior Health-operated facilities.“As a rec therapist, it’s hard to program for every single person, so it’s beautiful having this tool that we know we can engage someone successfully,” said Knapton.It’s said to be having a positive impact on residents who are using the technology.“We do pre- and post-session evaluations after every session, and consistently throughout,  every single resident that uses VR says that they are feeling better after the session,” Knapton said.On Friday, Hardychuk was asked by clinical rec therapist  Michelle Wingfield what activity he would like to experience this time, giving him a number of choices.“Snowmobiling, motorcycle ride, a rollercoaster. What do you think you’re up to doing today?” she asked Hardychuk.He answered, “All of it.”When asked what he thought of his virtual skiing in Colorado, Hardychuk said, “It’s sweet.”Hardychuk’s sister Taryn Millway was elated when she was told the first time Hardychuk had a chance to experience VR. Story continues below advertisement “It was just so cool to hear that he got to go on a roller coaster because he hasn’t been out of a wheelchair in 15 years,” Millway told Global News.Since then, Hardychuk has tried all kinds of extreme sports to fill that adrenaline rush need.“I think he did a few things that were things he’s done in life and had goals to do in life before he had to live there. So it was just such a neat idea,” Millway said.VR is also being used by other health authorities across B.C. 2:13 Virtual reality: UBC Okanagan first to offer ‘immersive technologies’ graduate program &copy 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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