A woman gave a try of a virtual reality headset on her 103rd birthday so she could go wherever she chooses to walk — along a local ramp. Joyce Penfold wore a set of headphones and treadmills that could take people around the world or the universe.
But Joyce decided on her 103rd birthday that there’s nothing she loves more than a walk on a cliff – near her nursing home. Joyce was given the opportunity with the help of the University of Plymouth’s “Generating Older Active Lives Digitally” programme.
When asked where in the world she wanted to go, she chose Maker Heights, just 63 miles from her retirement home in Falmouth. Joyce said it was a “beautiful” experience.
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She said: ‘I found it very strange and different at first, but I’m glad I did – I enjoyed it so much. The young women from Plymouth University were excellent, they made me feel very comfortable.’
‘Usually the only time I go out is when my daughter takes me outside, the furthest we go is only a few miles, for a coffee maybe and a good old chat. Trips on the treadmill have made a nice change but I have no desire to go abroad yet.’ ‘
Joyce has previously had the opportunity to try out ROVR, and I chose to take a virtual trip to the seaside in Godrevy, Hayle. There she saw a lighthouse and she had an oar in the sea.
She loved technology so much that the GOALD team gave her another chance at her 103rd birthday party at Tresillian House. At that time she chose to walk on the cliff.
The team at the University of Plymouth is trying to study the effects of technology on the health and well-being of older adults. The headset works with an omnidirectional treadmill that allows the user to move in any direction – this gives users the opportunity to move freely in a virtual environment as if they were actually there.
Maria Blagden, Joyce’s daughter, said: “I wasn’t completely surprised that she’s so embracing. I think she was over 70 when she got on her first flight, so nothing is holding her back.”
Dr. Hannah Bradwell, Digital Health Research Associate at UoP’s GOALD Project, works in partnership with staff at Tresillian House. She said: “We are really interested in using technology to support physical activity for older adults, and for us this technology has a lot of potential in that regard.
“While people walk on the treadmill they can explore virtual worlds, and having a range of places to explore creates motivation to be active.”
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