Partner post: Q&A with BaptistCare on introducing VR with SilVR Adventures

Petrina Greenwood, Head of IT Strategy and Innovation at BaptistCare

In this Q&A we discuss the roll-out of virtual reality (VR) experiences at BaptistCare. Petrina Greenwood and Sam Hall lead the innovation team and were responsible for the implementation of the program across their sites in NSW, ACT and WA.

Petrina Greenwood is Head of IT Strategy and Innovation at BaptistCare and leads the innovation team, which includes innovation specialist Sam Hall. The team are dedicated to finding impactful technology solutions to help BaptistCare’s mission to deliver exceptional care to older Australians and individuals facing disadvantage, work they’ve been doing since 1944.

After some research and investigation, the BaptistCare innovation team settled on virtual travel experiences to enhance residents’ well-being and reduce social isolation. It led to BaptistCare conducting a trial of SilVR Adventures in their Gracewood Home. The implementation of SilVR Adventures has led to numerous positive outcomes for residents, including uplifting feedback and inspiring stories from their VR experiences.  

BaptistCare introduced SilVR Adventures after the challenging times of the COVID-19 pandemic when feelings of loneliness and isolation among older adults were at an all-time high. Today, SilVR Adventures is used in homes across NSW, ACT and WA to bring joy and connection to residents.

What motivated you to introduce SilVR Adventures to BaptistCare’s aged care homes?

Petrina: Championing innovation for a people-first organisation means that we are always looking for impactful technology solutions. We were drawn to the concept of virtual travel experiences and were keen to explore how this technology could enhance the well-being of our residents and lessen social isolation.

How did you overcome any initial challenges or resistance when implementing SilVR Adventures within your organisation?

Petrina: Our Lifestyle Coordinators love to design varied activity calendars for our residents, so they took no convincing at all. We also supported staff with some initial training and allowed them to experience the virtual reality headsets themselves.

Can you share some specific examples of how SilVR Adventures has positively impacted the lives of aged care residents at BaptistCare?

Sam: Residents can talk about activities they don’t do anymore, which triggered ‘hidden’ stories and memories that were then shared. Residents connected and felt less isolated through these shared experiences, helped by the regularity of the weekly sessions. VR provides the ability to overcome extreme mobility challenges and isolation limitations by bringing the experience to the resident in their room, either with an employee or a visitor/family member. We found the benefits were greater in this situation. There were also benefits for residents with macular degeneration or legal blindness, as they were able to ‘see’ again and experience the VR travel videos despite their disability.

What feedback have you received from aged care residents and care teams regarding their experiences with SilVR Adventures?

Sam: Feedback from aged care residents and care teams has been overwhelmingly positive with both advising they enjoy the sessions, particularly experiences with animals, nature, and places they had been or had dreamed of travelling to.  They also appreciated the educational aspect of the sessions. However, there were some comments about the goggles being uncomfortable, and some residents felt claustrophobic and disoriented. So, although it’s proved beneficial for the majority, we found it’s not for everyone.

In what ways has SilVR Adventures helped address the issue of loneliness and isolation among older adults, especially post the COVID-19 pandemic?

Sam: Although our experience with SilVR Adventures wasn’t during the COVID-19 pandemic, we found that the VR sessions still helped reduce social isolation and stimulate cognition and memory among individuals watching and experiencing the immersive travel videos. The VR experiences helped residents reconnect and feel less isolated and the regularity of the weekly sessions helped strengthen community, employee, and resident relationships. Additionally, the VR experiences allowed residents to overcome extreme immobility or isolation limitations by bringing the experience to their room, either with an employee or a visitor/family member.

Can you expand on any measurable outcomes or success stories that have resulted from the use of SilVR Adventures at BaptistCare?

Sam: The findings of the project are very positive, with increased resident enjoyment, memory stimulation, and lessened social isolation. Some recorded outcomes and metrics from employee and resident surveys include:

  • Over 85% of employees said residents enjoyed the session, and over 85% of employees said they enjoyed facilitating a session either a great deal or a lot.
  • 100% of the time, the VR sessions stimulated memories, stories, and conversations afterwards with some or all participants.
  • The VR experiences helped strengthen community, employee, and resident relationships, lessened isolation, and improved resident emotional well-being.
  • One success story is that of Bobby, a resident who participated in the VR sessions. The VR experiences triggered stories and memories for Bobby bringing him a sense of awe and wonder. This was significant as Bobby suffers from macular degeneration [1] or legal blindness; his experience was transformational, and he was able to ‘see’ again and experience the VR travel videos despite his disability.

Bobby shares his feedback about how he can see again using VR

How does SilVR Adventures complement the existing engagement activities and care services provided by BaptistCare?

Petrina: Offering a diverse range of activities is crucial, and the VR travel experiences provide not only entertainment but also foster meaningful connections among residents, their families, employees, and volunteers. Unlike simply recalling memories, the immersive nature of virtual reality allows residents to relive and recapture the same sense of awe and wonder.

Have you observed any unexpected benefits or outcomes from implementing SilVR Adventures in aged care settings?

Sam: The VR pilot study found that the impact of the VR experiences was greater on higher-needs residents who experienced much greater social isolation due to mobility issues and varying degrees of visual impairment. As a result, the enjoyment and visual stimulation were more marked with greater benefits.

How does BaptistCare ensure that the use of SilVR Adventures aligns with the individual needs and preferences of aged care residents?

Petrina: BaptistCare’s commitment to a person-centred approach supports the individual needs and preferences of aged care residents, ensuring a high quality of life and satisfaction within their community. When introducing an activity like this, it’s imperative to create an inclusive environment where residents can engage as much or as little as they like.

Looking ahead, how do you envision the continued integration and expansion of SilVR Adventures within BaptistCare’s aged care facilities?

Petrina: Now that the trial has concluded, several homes in NSW and ACT have chosen to integrate SilVR Adventures or VR headsets into their Lifestyle programs, and homes in Western Australia are trialling the adventures. As technology continues to advance, we are excited to be part of the future development of meaningful experiences and to collaborate on engaging activities for our residents.

There’s never been a better time to join SilVR!

We’ve received many wonderful stories that qualify for our SilVR Impact Excellence Award, and there’s still time to submit yours for a chance to win a $2,000 Flight Centre Gift Card!  Showcase your impactful VR initiatives and be in the running for our prestigious award. Submit your stories before midnight on Friday, 26th July 2024.

Contact SilVR today and use Promo Code “EOFY2024” to take advantage of our EOFY offers, including amazing discounts on hardware, delivery and VR content: www.silvradventures.com.au

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