New software can take Balhousie residents ‘virtually’ anywhere

Yvonne Manson, Balhousie’s dementia consultant, considers virtual reality software and the benefits it can bring to the elderly.

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We’re always looking for ways to enhance residents’ lives, and virtual reality is the latest new thing we’re testing throughout our homes. The software and headset that comes with it lets people go on virtual trips and holidays, see underwater, and visit places via Google Earth – all from the comfort of their own chair.

Virtual reality software has proven to be particularly effective for people with dementia, in getting them to recognise, remember and communicate. And for people who experience mobility issues and are lacking social interaction, it can work magic.

In a trial day at our Forth View care home in Methil recently, residents were queuing up to use the headset after word spread around the home about the “special glasses” that could take them ‘virtually’ anywhere. One resident was able to visit her childhood home in Surrey, a journey she likely would not take in person.

Samantha Beattie, deputy care home manager at Forth View, is raising money for the technology through a skydiving jump. She is trying to raise £1500 for a laptop and the VR headset.  Samantha says: “We’ve been on training sessions to learn about the benefits of virtual reality, but this was the first time the residents had used it. I’ve watched videos where residents who aren’t able to communicate verbally or even non-verbally all of a sudden are using this and they come back to life. They’ve started talking, singing. I think it just brings back a lot of memories for them, it stimulates their mind.”

Gordon Candlish, home manager at Forth View, says: “Many of our residents have severe dementia and we’d do anything to try and help them. We thought we’d like to try it and see what benefits they could give them.”

Jack Gardiner, a former police officer in Methil whose wife is a resident at Forth View, says: “The technology and software is really good. It lets them see how real some things are. It’s great to see the reactions of the residents.”

Like any form of therapy, it will not be suitable for every resident. But for others it will provide alternative support for mental and physical stimulation, essential for resident wellbeing. 

Virtual reality apps include Google Earth, meditation and virtual cinema, which gives the impression of actually sitting in a cinema. We’re excited about the whole, virtual, world out there that our residents can explore.

 You can see some video of residents of Forth View using the software here: