Staff at a Dundee care home are gearing up for a charity skydive to raise money for high-tech virtual reality equipment for its residents.
Balhousie Clement Park, part of Balhousie Care Group, was so impressed by a trial it recently ran, in which residents donned a VR headset and ‘virtually' went around the world, that it has committed to the ambitious fundraiser.
The home is following in the footsteps of its sister care home, Balhousie Forth View in Methil, Fife, where deputy care home manager Samantha Beattie raised £1500 for the state-of-the-art equipment. It includes a laptop and virtual reality headset.
Balhousie Care Group, which has 25 care homes throughout the north-east of Scotland, owns a full VR system including accessories and is currently lending this out to each home on a rotational basis.
Margaret Stephen, care home manager at Balhousie Clement Park, said:
"It was fascinating watching residents' reaction to the VR equipment. This took them on trips they could only dream of making now, including underwater and ‘flying' around the United States. It wasn't long before I persuaded two members of staff to commit to buying our own set of equipment. We hope to do the skydive this side of Easter."
One of Clement Park's residents, George Gallagher, had spent time living and working in the USA. While staff looked on, George described some of the notable landmarks he virtually flew over during a Google Earth tour from The Grand Canyon to Devils Tower monument.
VR technology has been shown to improve memory, mood and verbal communication among care home residents. The software enables them to visit ‘virtually' anywhere, including visits to Paris, rock climbing and cinema to, thanks to Google Earth, their childhood homes.
Yvonne Manson, Balhousie Care's dementia consultant, said:
"VR technology is an alternative, and very valuable, form of supporting our residents with extra mental and physical stimulation, and that's essential for their well being and state of mind. It's exciting that technology is offering up all of these possibilities for the elderly and we're delighted to be giving those experiences to our residents."
Meanwhile, Balhousie Care Group's CEO Steve White shared his views on how VR technology can help fight loneliness in today's Herald newspaper. To find out more about Balhousie Care Group, visit www.balhousiecare.co.uk