Some may think that older generations are more removed from technology than their younger counterparts, but the seniors at The Pillars of Shorewood Landing prove this theory wrong.
For over a year, this assisted and independent living community has brought new experiences to seniors through WellnessVR, a virtual reality program designed by Minnesota-based company Visual. “WellnessVR brings a world of relaxing experiences to seniors in a virtual reality headset. The WellnessVR programming includes a vast library of 360-degree content that helps reduce stress and promote well-being,” says Chuck Olsen, CEO and co-founder of Visual.
Using WellnessVR, seniors are able to choose from three categories of experiences: relax, travel and culture. In the relax category, seniors enjoy scenes focused on calming nature settings like a beach in Maui or Lake Superior’s North Shore. Travel allows seniors to explore international destinations from the Eiffel Tower to Stonehenge. For those who want to take in more than just the sights, culture presents music, dance and art. “WellnessVR partners with Minnesota Public Radio, Minnesota Opera and others to bring a variety of cultural experiences to seniors. One fun example is the Improv for Seniors experience from Brave New Workshop,” Olsen says.
Prior to COVID-19 restrictions, WellnessVR was used weekly in group settings, often sparking valuable conversations and reminiscing among residents. Although these group sessions can’t proceed during the pandemic, seniors are able to access this valuable technology in individual sessions.
“Residents enjoy using WellnessVR individually to help with social isolation and stress relief. We’ve been leaning on using WellnessVR more than usual throughout the pandemic,” says Griffin Myslivecek, executive director at The Pillars of Shorewood Landing.
The response from residents to this program is overwhelmingly positive, and a fan-favorite scene appears to be the Duluth Rose Garden, a peaceful vista with a garden and a waterfall. Not only did the WellnessVR program receive acclaim from its seniors, but it was recognized in the wider community of technological innovation, receiving a LeadingAge Minnesota Innovation Award.
The Pillars of Shorewood Landing, developed by Excelsior-based Oppidan Investment Company, offers a community for independent living, assisted living and memory care and currently housing 105 residents. In addition to Shorewood, there are locations in Highland Park, Minneapolis, White Bear Lake and Mankato.