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Is any of it real?

Yesterday I visited a care home in order to spend time with an aged relative who is currently staying there for a period of “temporary respite” whilst some necessary changes are made to the living arrangements at his home.

There are inevitably plusses and minuses to sending a relative to a care home, even on a short-term basis, not least that almost certainly (given the choice) he would have preferred matters to be otherwise and therefore – consciously or not – may not settle in easily, or indeed at all.

We seem to have been lucky in this respect.

Yesterday, not long after we arrived, we discovered that – as an afternoon activity – those patients who fancied it were to be treated to a demonstration and/or perhaps first-ever exposure to what is called “Virtual reality” (or “VR”) – in other words, a 360 degree sensaround experience delivered via a massive head-set via which the viewer can seemingly experience outrageously adventurous activities without leaving their tea-time armchair.

Given that at in some cases, at their advanced stage of life, some inmates probably live in a bizarre and puzzling state of consciousness in which the world around them seems like something invented by a lunatic – and/or their everyday experiences (as they encounter them) are akin to confronting life as it is when you have just taken one and a half tablets of LSD – this might appear to be a rather sensitive (if not dangerous) project to introduce.

But no matter – the offer was there, group participation was invited – and it was with some encouragement from us that our relative made his way to the lecture theatre for his first experience of VR.

As it happened, the episode provided an hour’s most entertaining diversion that was generally enjoyed by all.

Here is a photograph that I took of the proceedings:

In the first – as you can see – the gentleman in the foreground is experiencing a ride in a gondola through the canals of Venice that he had chosen from a list of options made available to him.

Not only was he able, by turning his head this way and that, to look at the striking architecture of that venerable city and then around at other craft also proceeding through the waterways, but to actually reach out and touch them if he wished.

Meanwhile the lady in the background had also made her choice of the available options offered to her by the female in charge of the demonstration.

She was watching the Aiden Turner shirtless-scything scene from a previous series of Poldark, the latest of which made its welcome return to BBC1 screens over the weekend.

About Gerald Ingolby

Formerly a consumer journalist on radio and television, in 2002 Gerald published a thriller novel featuring a campaigning editor who was wrongly accused and jailed for fraud. He now runs a website devoted to consumer news. More Posts