Derwent Living launches Virtual Places

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Get Online Week sees the launch of virtual reality project for retirement living schemes.

Housing provider Derwent Living has launched a new virtual reality experience for its older customers in a bid to support good mental health and reduce social isolation.

The project, which is being supported by a grant from social value investment charity Places Foundation, is being piloted throughout October before being rolled out to retirement living schemes across Derwent Living’s operating area.

Virtual reality technology has been around for a number of years, but new lightweight untethered headsets are making the experience more accessible and comfortable for users. The headsets, which allow wearers to view 360 degree video and digital environments, are particularly useful for those suffering from dementia or mobility related illnesses.

Each session will be tailored for those customers attending - with the overall aim to provide relaxation, stimulate memories, or take part in experiences that health conditions would not normally allow.

Mitch Allseybrook, customer engagement manager at Derwent Living said: “We’re piloting the programme as part of national initiative Get Online Week before rolling it out across the Midlands to customers in our retirement living schemes.

“Although people tend to think that Get Online Week is about learning new skills and the benefits of the internet through a browser - there’s much more to it than that. We want to show the value of connected experiences such as virtual reality and the positive effects it can have for customers.

“Those taking part will be able to select from a menu of options, including sensory walks, visiting art galleries and even taking a guided tour of the Great Pyramids of Giza. Because we’ll be running the sessions with existing friendship groups, we hope that sharing the experiences with lots of people in a familiar setting will make the technology seem less daunting.”

Group Head of Social Value at Places Foundation Jamie Dickinson said: “A key priority for us is promoting health and wellbeing, and how that can help to reduce social isolation. Innovation is one of our key principles and we want to see new ideas which deliver social change.

“The Virtual Places project is finding new, innovative and cost effective ways to combat some of the challenges older people face. It also provides access to technologies that wouldn’t normally be available in Derwent Living’s retirement living accommodation.  

“We received a huge number of requests to fund a range of fantastic projects. However due to its innovation and focus this project was successful in securing some of the £100K the charity has awarded in grants this year.

Derwent Living will be running sessions across its retirement living schemes all this week. If you think a friend or relative living in a Derwent Living retirement living scheme would benefit from a Virtual Places session in the future, please email or call 01332 346 477.

Get Online Week is a national campaign by The Good Things Foundation to provide skills and resources to those who are digitally excluded. It runs from 14-20 October 2019. For more information please visit the Get Online Week website