Michelle Copeman and Sarah Beauclerk
Hywel Dda University Health Board
The Covid 19 pandemic meant that people have been unable to physically participate in the events and activities that previously connected them socially, leading to new digital catalysts in which traditionally face-to-face services moved online to continue supporting their service-users.
This has led to a revolution of digital inclusivity. Individuals previously disconnected from technology have harnessed virtual platforms to connect with others and to access products and services.
There is the clear opportunity to make use of the newly established digital stage and awaiting audience-groups created through Digital Inclusion initiatives by improving virtual access to a wide range of community events and activities that continue to be difficult for many to access physically.
Connecting Realities uses VR technology as a tool to connect people to wellbeing experiences and community activities they would otherwise struggle to access, to reduce isolation and loneliness and improve health. This intervention—of digitally inclusive virtual experience creation—focusses on making high-quality virtual experiences and connecting them with those who can benefit from them by working in collaboration with digital inclusion platforms and healthcare and community-support practitioners.
The following types of virtual experiences will be explored to satisfy different needs:
- Livestreams (such as our recent pilot livestreaming the Pembrokeshire County Show to Care Homes) can act as a sharing, reminiscence, and community connecting tool and to increase access to practical workshops, such as falls prevention exercise classes.
- Immersive VR360 experiences can provide valuable refreshment and relief to a person who is occupationally deprived, and/or unable to physically access experiences.
- Virtual tours and videos can be used to support an individual to safely assess routes or places as a precursor to participating physically. In this way, virtual experiences can support a restoration of mobility or confidence that may have been compromised through the lockdown.
The creation of a Connecting Realities Toolkit to empower the creation and sustained delivery of digital and immersive solutions.
- 50 + VR Sessions supported over 200 VR Experiences:
- The project is working with 4 x Care Homes and 3 x Daycare Centres.
- 3 x team members are employed part-time to support and create VR sessions.
- 2 x Support events occur weekly, each event reaching approx. 10 individuals at risk of isolation.
- 6 x Virtual Reality Tours and 10 x Access information profiles are developed, with more in development.
- Project developed with the Pembrokeshire Hwb maps and shares over 100 warm rooms in Pembrokeshire.
- A Creative Network linking VR innovation with Healthcare is in development.
- 100% of Care Homes supported to hold a VR session requested more sessions.
- Feedback forms suggested that 78% of care home participants, many who are living with advanced dementia, showed an improvement in mood after a Virtual Reality Experience, with 0% reduction in mood observed.
- 100% of health and social care professionals involved in the delivery of VR sessions found them a positive experience for their service -users.