Samsung Electronics Australia and Uniting have announced quite an exciting partnership: one which proves "you’re never too old to fulfill unlived dreams!"
It's part of a pilot program where Samsung will "visit five Uniting aged care homes across NSW and the ACT to encourage residents to ‘tick off’ their bucket lists through immersive virtual reality experiences".
We're told that "current studies are investigating emerging applications of VR in healthcare, including for dementia patients and pain management.
"Residents at each home will be provided the opportunity to select an experience from their personal ‘bucket list’ that they have yet to achieve, with particular emphasis on experiences they have longed for or did not think possible. Samsung will then source virtual reality content that responds to their request for them to enjoy."
One example is of a "resident by the name of Don Jackson was able to take a stroll through the Canadian Redwood forests", and as can be seen in the video below, "the reactions from all three residents were of wonder and amazement as they got to feel like they were living out some of their dreams."
If the pilot is successful, it could "change the experience of aged and dementia patients in homes all around Australia", and that's great news for sure.
So, what's some of the background before we get to comments from the experts and the videos of the aged care residents enjoying VR?
Well, we're advised that "the ageing population in Australia is inextricably linked to an increase in a range of health implications, with dementia now being the second leading cause of death in Australians".
"Furthermore, people with dementia account for 52% of all residents in aged care facilities. With the implementation of new technology such as virtual reality in aged care facilities, the hope is to create a better environment for those suffering with dementia and help them overcome a range of mental health issues including social anxiety, isolation and depression.
"Studies have shown that virtual reality can have a therapeutic effect, stimulate the brain, enhance social integration and create an increase in overall well-being in patients".
The five pilot sites for the VR experience program are:
- Annesley House in Haberfield, NSW;
- Uniting Wontama in Orange, NSW;
- Uniting Caroona Jarman in Goonellabah, NSW;
- Uniting Amala in Gordon, ACT; and
- Uniting Bowden Brae Gardens in Normanhurst, NSW.
Martin Brown, head of Alliances & Partner Solutions, Enterprise Mobility at Samsung Australia, said “We strive to develop technology that can make a difference in the lives of Australians. This opportunity is a wonderful example of how immersive technology like VR can impact an individual’s health and well-being.
“Samsung is dedicated to finding the right partners to work with. We aim to support and facilitate their efforts by finding new ways to deliver their services, like improved healthcare offerings. We’re looking forward to undertaking this pilot with Uniting and taking their residents to places they’ve only ever dreamt about.”
Nick Brennan, associate professor of the Uniting War Memorial Hospital, said: “Using virtual reality technology in this way can give dementia residents and older Australians new adventures which they could not otherwise achieve due to mobility or health problems. Studies suggest that virtual reality can have a therapeutic effect and stimulate the brain. Providing new adventures for these patients can help to reduce stress and boredom and creates new ways for them to interact with their peers.”
As part of this pilot, carers at Uniting will also be able use Samsung VR technology to experience a realistic day in the life of a resident with dementia.
"By experiencing the day-to-day life of a dementia patient, Uniting and Samsung hope to give their carers a deeper understanding of the stress, confusion and disorientation that residents experience so carers can improve their care plans and how they interact and engage with these residents."
Tracey Burton, executive director of Uniting, said: “Uniting has seen how new and emerging technologies can give back independence to our residents and we’re delighted to partner with Samsung. Together we believe we can brighten many residents’ days and fulfill unlived dreams.
“Our relationship with Samsung is about technology experiences but it offers so much more to our residents. Our approach to aged care reflects our ‘Inspired Care’ model, where our teams spend the time to get to know each resident. Each home has a lifestyle manager who learns what every resident enjoys, and plans activities accordingly. Our model provides more control and flexibility to our residents.”
The pilot program was created following an 'immersive virtual reality experience provided by Samsung in January 2018. Uniting Mirinjani resident, Berenice Benson held a long-term dream to visit New York and meet a New York police officer".
"Her dream became a reality and since her experience, staff have reported that Berenice is generally chattier with other residents and brightens up completely when asked to talk about the event".
In the videos below, we see footage and imagery of the residents experiencing their personal "bucket list" items, and vox pops from experts on what the experience means for the residents and for the two companies involved.
The three videos are interspersed below:
Aged care residents and their bucket list items
- James Hadley – Visiting Vancouver, his hometown, where he hasn’t been since arriving in Australia.
- Stephen Cusack – Going on a space craft, orbiting Earth and going to the Grand Canyon.
- Don Jackson – A walk among the Canadian Redwood forests, which he has never been able to visit.
The experts featured are:
- Martin Brown, head of Alliances & Partner Solutions, Enterprise Mobility at Samsung Australia.
- Nick Brennan, associate professor and geriatrician, Uniting War Memorial Hospital.
- Tracey Burton, executive director, Uniting.