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Retirement Home Residents Enjoy Broadway, Skydiving Doing Virtual Reality

scooter_and_vr.jpg
Ann Thompson
/
WVXU
Roy "Scooter" Franks jumps out of a plane virtually and sky dives. Maple Knoll's Bailey Wallingford helped roll out the technology to residents.

Residents of the Springdale retirement community Maple Knoll Village have been busier than usual lately. They've been onstage with Lion King performers in New York, playing with puppies, and rafting down the Colorado River - all virtually of course.

Eighty-eight-year-old Roy "Scooter" Franks says he didn't know anything about virtual reality (VR) before he was part of a pilot program during the pandemic at Maple Knoll.

"It's completely different than picking up a magazine or a book and reading it," he says. "You're still sitting in your chair  or whatever. This (VR) creates an activity which makes you more active."

The Colorado River trip was his favorite because he's really done it. He wasn't so much a fan of skydiving as plenty of other residents were. "I don't know how high they start but you've got a long way to go down," says Franks.

Virtual Reality is now open to all residents at the retirement community.

VR was a technology Maple Knoll Chief Innovation Officer Andy Craig was excited to bring to residents. "Even before the pandemic, we do have some residents that aren't able to go to different events off campus or even travel throughout the country or the world," he says. "The idea was if you can't physically leave campus and enjoy the arts or enjoy travel, we can do that virtually."

Residents can pick from the following categories:

  • Adventure
  • Art
  • Learning
  • Music
  • Nature
  • Pets
  • Travel

The program comes from MyndVR, which aims to improve quality of life for older adults. MyndVR has collaborated with Stanford University's Virtual Human Interaction Lab to study VR's effects on people for two decades. Stanford selected Maple Knoll Village as one of the retirement communities to participate in this study.
Vice President of Marketing and Development for Maple Knoll Megan Ulrich knows VR is improving lives. "Where we really see this having a huge benefit is also in our assisted living and in skilled nursing," she says. "So those individuals have been on restrictions because of COVID over the past year and a half so they have not gotten a chance to go out." 

Maple Knoll's Bailey Wallingford helps residents get started with it. "It was kind of funny to watch them because nobody can see you because they all have the goggles on and they're all like looking up and down. But they really enjoyed it," she says.

Scooter's biggest hurdle for continued VR use might be his busy lifestyle. He might not have time for it. "I keep a pretty active life," he says. "And so I would have to have, you know, a lot of days of rain when I couldn't play golf or something like that."