'It’s unbelievable': Parry Sound FHT uses virtual reality to help seniors to explore the world

April 04, 2022

Parry Sound North Star published March 29, 2022

Written by Sarah Bissonette

On any given day, Valarie Stanley watches members of area’s older residents tackle Mount Everest, explore the streets of Paris or sit in a garden while never leaving Parry Sound and, for some, remaining in their wheelchairs.

The Parry Sound Health Team virtual reality project takes the world to older adults for increased social connection and improved mental health — to give them some “fun” as Executive Director Peter Istvan said. Stanley, the Parry Sound Family Health Team senior VR project co-ordinator, arrives at congregate living homes and support centres in the area every week with virtual reality headsets.

“We give them choices. Where do they want to go in the world today? And it’s kind of fun. I thought it wasn’t going to be as successful as it is; it’s unbelievable,” said Stanley.

While wearing the headsets, the person can turn their head and move to look around the world on the screen, similar to being in the space themselves.

The virtual reality program is funded by Ontario’s Seniors Community Grant.