Staff at a Fife care home have raised money to buy state-of-the-art virtual reality and other hi-tech equipment to enhance the lives of their residents – thanks to a daring skydive by one of its managers.
Samantha Beattie, deputy care home manager at Balhousie Forth View in Methil, completed a skydive on Remembrance Day, November 11th, raising £1500 for the home. The cash raised has bought a laptop, virtual reality headset, three Amazon Echo voice activated services and a tablet for residents and visitors.
Now known to fellow staff and residents as ‘Flying Sam’, Samantha first learned of the benefits of VR technology to the elderly in training sessions and through videos. These include improved memory, mood and verbal communication.
Balhousie Care Group, a leader in residential care in Scotland, has been testing the VR headsets throughout its 25 care homes. The software enables them to visit ‘virtually’ anywhere, from visits to Paris, rock climbing, the cinema and, thanks to Google Earth, their childhood homes.
Samantha said: “I’d watched videos where residents who aren’t able to communicate verbally or even non-verbally all of a sudden are using VR headsets and they come back to life. They’ve started talking and singing. I think it just brings back a lot of memories for them, it stimulates their mind.”
Forth View care home manager Gordon Candlish said: “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. We’re thrilled that, thanks to our own Flying Sam, we can now offer these on a permanent basis.”
Yvonne Manson, Balhousie’s dementia consultant, said:
“VR technology is an alternative, and very valuable, form or 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.”