Virtually a Walk in the Park

Trying Virtual Reality for the First Time

‘It’s absolutely fantastic, you’re walking through forests and water. You feel like you’re really there. You can go to places you’ve never been before,’ Mrs McAulie said. She is pictured with I Wish I’d Asked project founders Eva Gruen and Danny Finley.

It’s the dream of every cash-strapped traveller stuck in side a frail body to experience the world from your arm chair. The dream came true for a group of elderly Shepparton Villages residents on Thursday as they tried on virtual reality goggles for the first time and went to the beach, the bush, a city trip or a painting class.

Kevin Ritchie was the first to take a walk on the wild side from his chair at The Hub on Park side Dve, North Shepparton. ‘It was just incredible, I was in the forest and walking through the trees. ‘It was a different world. I’ve seen a lot in my 90 years, but this is amazing,’ he said. Next up was fellow Shepp Villages resident Dianne McAulie. ‘It’s absolutely you’re walking forests and water.

Shepparton Villages resident Dianne McAulie couldn’t wipe the smile off her face earlier this week when she tried virtual reality for the first time. ‘You feel like you’re really there. You can go to places you’ve never been before, it would be so good for people who are immobilised, and for sick children, too,’ Mrs McAulie said.

The fantastic virtual reality experience, was organised through the I Wish I’d Asked program and delivered with the help of Wanganui Park Secondary College students and IT specialist Christian Dow. Shepparton Villages chief executive Kerri Rivett said The Community Fund Goulburn Valley had donated the virtual reality goggles to the aged care facility four years ago but they had never been fully used because of limited time and staff training.

She said working with students through the I Wish I’d Asked program had brought technical expertise and a new passion to use the equipment. ‘Students will now come into our facilities and assist the residents to use the equipment. It’s all about relationships and creating purpose and quality in life,’ Ms Rivett said.

Banksia Lodge care manager David Shipston said the virtual reality experience could be beneficial for residents with early dementia. ‘This sort of stimulation can have a really calming influence, people can be in the moment and enjoy something by themselves,’ he said. Victorian Government’s Department of Economic Development director of technology and innovation Kathy Coultas attended Thursday’s demonstration at The Hub.

She said the project was unique and exciting. ‘This creates a whole new world of opportunity for younger and older people to meet and have fun. It’s really special,’ Ms Coultas said. She said the I Wish I’d Asked project fitted neatly into the government’s two week statewide Digital Innovation Festival which ended yesterday. The festival presented more than 400 public events in 35 locations across the state. ‘The festival was about finding out how we can use technology to build skills and future ideas, and I WIsh I’d Asked is doing this in a really practical way,’ Ms Coultas said.

Source: Shepparton News | November 2019