Virtual reality helps Homestead residents and staff
DENTON — Homestead Manor recently introduced a very modern tool to help residents of its assisted living facility travel anywhere and experience anything in the world, without having to leave the building.
Virtual reality — specifically, Samsung’s Gear VR system — is allowing residents to see places they always dreamed of, or revisit places they remember.
The technology is also helping staff at Homestead Manor, by letting them take a quick virtual trip to a beach for relaxation, for instance. Software is being developed that will allow staff to feel what it’s like to have Alzheimer’s or dementia, leading to better understanding and treatment for residents who suffer from the diseases.
Right now, Homestead Manor has one pair of virtual reality goggles, but it hopes to purchase several more in the near future, allowing residents to go on guided virtual group trips.
The idea to introduce virtual reality to the residents came from Jacob Harrington, son of Administrator Christine Harrington, and a sophomore majoring in video game production and design at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia.
Jacob Harrington is also a longtime volunteer at Homestead Manor. Over the previous five years of getting to know the residents, he learned some could never leave the facility, or did not want to, but wanted to see a place they’d never visited in real life, or reconnect with a memory.
Enjoying the Samsung Gear VR system himself, Jacob Harrington asked his mom if he could bring it to the facility to let residents try it.
It was an immediate hit. One woman, who has dementia and rarely speaks, asked to see the Grand Canyon, which she had never gotten to see before. She was able to do a virtual flyover, and then take a virtual trip down the river cutting through it.
Another woman who once lived in a town in Texas got to revisit the downtown street where she used to work and get coffee at a cafe.
Samsung’s system works by clipping one of its smartphones to the front of the goggles. Two images are shown on the phone’s screen. The convex lenses of the goggles trick the eyes into combining the two images, creating a single 3D image, similar to the way 3D glasses for movies work.
Jacob Harrington said videos exist of practically anything residents want to see or try. Two of the more popular videos let people stand in the middle of the Puppy Bowl as it is under way, or ride a roller coaster at a Six Flags theme park in Florida.
WBOC-TV 16 aired the segment about the new technology Friday, March 31, on its “Delmar va Life” program.
Jacob Harrington, left, a college student majoring in video game design and a longtime volunteer at Homestead Manor, listens as resident Ruth Ann DeFord, right, describes the virtual trip she is taking to see Brazil, courtesy of virtual reality technology Harrington introduced to the assisted living facility.