We're taking our virtual reality program on the road
Camarillo Health Care District will help local older adults, age 62 and up who are homebound or have limited mobility, go on virtual travel adventures thanks in part to a community development block grant from the city of Camarillo.
The city awarded a CDBG contract to the District for fiscal year 2023-24 to help cover the cost, making it free to participants identified through community outreach. The District will connect with at least 10 locations, including skilled nursing facilities, assisted living, nursing homes and senior housing communities.
The program, called “Roam Around the World,” is the mobile version of its award-winning “Adventures in VR” classes held on the District’s campus at 3639 E. Las Posas Road. So far, more than 250 people, ages 22 to 96, have taken virtual reality classes at the District since Fall 2022. “Roam Around the World” has a goal of bringing VR to at least 80 more older adults who may not have the ability to travel any longer because of health or financial constraints.
VR offers participants a full sense of “being there” through immersive headsets and software applications and utilizes computer technology to create a simulated environment. Imagine traveling over the Swiss Alps in a hot-air balloon, going on a guided sightseeing tour in Rome, snorkeling in an underwater safari park or being immersed in nature as animals walk up to you and you change your environment to make it rain or release butterflies around you. Through the District’s immersive VR programming, you can do all of this without leaving Camarillo.
In addition to teaching digital literacy, VR classes aim to improve quality of life and sense of well-being by reducing loneliness, addressing depression, and reducing barriers to socialization through common experiences. But, most of all, they’re fun. Participants talk about how the experience impacted them individually while in a group setting. They also write about it in a passport and add stickers that represent their journey.
As fun as it is, VR is being widely used in some uncommon ways. According to the study “Impact of Virtual Reality Experience on Older Adults’ Well Being” published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Design and Management and MIT AgeLab, “VR is believed to be beneficial to older adults due to its immersive interaction capabilities.”
“Participants who used the VR system reported being less socially isolated, being less likely to show signs of depression, experiencing positive affects more frequently, and feeling better about their overall well-being,” according to the study.
Virtual travel can provide a much-needed escape, particularly for people who are isolated, people with disabilities and the elderly. According to research by the makers of these VR applications, people have been moved to tears while using these travel and exploration applications as they stand virtually in a place they had always wanted to see but didn’t have the ability to anymore.
To learn more about the District’s VR classes, call Michelle Rogers, community outreach and education manager, at 805-388-1952, ext. 116, or Mariana Gutierrez, health promotion coordinator at ext. 206.