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Posted on March 2, 2020 by staff

Why VR is turning heads in care homes

Great grandmother Elaine Prance is 77 and admits she doesn’t normally ‘do’ technology – but laughs when she says she’s willing to give it a go.

The pensioner lives at Priory Court Nursing Home in Lytham, which is one of eight homes in the North West run by Century Healthcare looking to enhance the lives of its residents through technology.

Century Healthcare has teamed up which Redmoor Health to help teach residents how to do everything from use VR headsets to Skype relatives on the other side of the world.

Activities have included doing a virtual spacewalk and riding a rollercoaster ride thanks to a VR headset to simply playing games and listening to music through Alexa.

Angela Killip is the operations manager for Century Healthcare, which runs eight care homes in the region in Fleetwood, Wirral, Chorley, Wigan and four in Lytham, and said they jumped at the chance of taking part in the project, which is being run on behalf of the Good Things Foundation.

Good Things Foundation is a social change charity that supports socially excluded people to improve their lives through digital and the North West initiative asked Redmoor Health to oversee the programme and provide technology to Century Healthcare’s homes as well as running digital workshops for staff.

Angela said: “Everything we do is about improving the wellbeing of our residents and enhancing their lives. A lot of them already have mobile phones so we wanted to see how we could open up technology to them.

“We’ve got a very mixed range of residents, some with dementia, some with mobility issues and we also have some end-of-life patients. Technology isn’t right for all of them but it’s improving the overall quality of life.

“Some residents find it uncomfortable having their blood pressure taken but the Fitbit can do it as easily as wearing a watch. Technology doesn’t have to be daunting. You can listen to music on an iPad or play colouring games but you can also Skype your relatives on the other side of the world.

“Some of our homes have VR headsets and residents can do a virtual space walk or swim under the sea. We have a number of end-of-life patients and if they want to go on a rollercoaster or walk on the beach one last time the VR headsets can recreate that.

“It’s a learning curve for staff too and but after getting involved we started a Facebook page for all of the homes so we can update residents’ families.”

Great grandmother Elaine Prance, 77; 80-year-old John Jackson, and Colin Nicholls, 84, are all residents of Priory Court Nursing Home in Lytham and have all tried the new technology.

Mr Nicholls said: “When it comes to technology I’m willing to give anything a go. Every experience is good. As you get older it’s important to try new things.

Sam Pollitt is a Matron at Priory Court and said: “The Alexa has made a big difference. Residents will ask for a ‘bit of Elvis’ when they’re having their dinner. We encourage them to interact with Alexa and ask questions. They’ll ask about the weather or what time it is. I asked one resident what she wanted for dinner and she replied ‘I’ll ask Alexa’.”

Gillibrand Hall in Chorley has introduced sessions called ‘Techie Wednesdays’ to showcase the latest technology including the VR headsets.

Activity co-ordinator Nicola Martin said: “It’s just been the 75th anniversary of the Holocaust and a 94-year-old resident mentioned it so we were able to download a virtual tour of Anne Franks’ house. It was really thought-provoking.

“Not all the residents understand the technology so we make sure it’s not invasive. One resident is a big fan of the TT Races and he uses the iPad to look at videos on YouTube.”

Marc Schmid is the founder of Redmoor Health and said initial feedback had been very positive.

“The 12-month project started in December and we’re looking to improve the health and wellbeing of residents, reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness and help people get connected,” he said.

“Century Healthcare have been really receptive and we’re supporting them on their digital journey. Different homes are trying different things.”