How Virtual Reality is helping those suffering with a range of conditions

Viarama is the world’s first virtual reality social enterprise. It uses the innovative power of VR to help schoolchildren, senior citizens, and 18 to 24 year olds, training and employing the latter group to take the best VR available into schools, nursing homes, hospices, respite centres, and hospitals. In addition to this, Viarama creates cutting edge VR experiences and content for government, third sector, and industry. All of Viarama’s projects have a strong focus on using the medium as a force for good.

Since 2015, the organisation has delivered countless sessions for thousands of people at all levels of physical ability. More recently, Viarama were honoured to meet HRH Princess Anne at Leuchie House to discuss their work in respite centres. Viarama have been working with Leuchie since 2017 and have had many wonderful experiences using VR to help those suffering from a wide variety of conditions. Leuchie is a place that is a lifeline for not just sufferers of neurological conditions but for their carers and family members too.

Below are a couple of examples of Viarama’s work here;

Linda’s Story:

For her whole life Linda dreamt of one thing; seeing Mount Everest. Sadly, she is also profoundly disabled­­ and as such her dream was an impossibility.

When Linda came to Viarama, she was intrigued by the idea of virtual reality but was unsure if she should even mention her dream to us. They are fragile things dreams, and building her hopes up only to be badly let down was something she had tragically become used to over the years. Amazingly, she still allowed herself to be hopeful and when she asked us, ‘Do you think there would be any possibility of seeing something to do with Mount Everest?’, she was even more intrigued when we said ‘Yes’.

We took her first to the wider area surrounding Everest, and then to the foothills, to let her see the base camp. Over the course of maybe 45 minutes we took her slowly higher, culminating with Linda being able to take in the view she had dreamt of seeing for so long. After a while spent up there, I – being careful not to intrude in such a special moment – asked if Linda was ok. When she asked to stop, I wasn’t sure how the experience had affected her, but on taking off the headset I noticed straight away that she had been crying. Linda wasn’t sad though, as she was at pains to quickly tell me, she was crying because she was so happy that her dream had, in a way, finally come true. Linda made me take a video of her reaction, and it can be seen on our Facebook page, here.

Mick’s Story:

In another session at Leuchie, Mick was very keen to once again see the beach in Ibiza that’s next to where his grown-up daughter lives. To give you the background; Mick is game. He gives off the energy of a man not afraid of much, not even MS. It would be ‘nae bother’ he assured me.   

Cracking jokes prior to his session, and quite blasé about the experience in general, he seemed to be taking everything in his stride regarding his condition. Perhaps that was why when he broke down in tears after his session, it hit me quite hard afterwards. He was as surprised by his reaction as I was, and afterwards he told me he didn’t realise just how much it meant to him to see that place again. He suddenly realised how much he needed to have a good greet about his condition, and situation in general. These are the kind of unforeseen positive consequences of sessions that we are still regularly surprised by, and Mick was very moved afterwards – he couldn’t speak highly enough of the experience.

Through Viarama’s work in nursing homes, hospices, and respite centres across Scotland, I regularly marvel at the bravery with which Linda, Mick and so many others face their incredibly challenging lives. I see them dealing with these conditions with stoicism and real bravery, and they are buoyed by the love that those who care for them show.

Through all of the hardships, indignities and the daily struggles they must face, the quality of respite care they receive at Leuchie House gives them the strength they need to carry on.

Every week, Leuchie takes some of the pressure off people, and we’ve worked with so many sufferers and their families who would be truly lost without their visits there. At a time when cuts are badly affecting all of our key institutions, we must make sure that places like Leuchie receive the funds they require to continue to give first class care to those who need it most.

Author: Billy Agnew, Founder & Chief Executive – Viarama

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