Breaking isolation: the human benefits of technology



Q&A with Colin Pudsey, founder of SilVR Adventures.

Your business SilVR Adventures was created in 2019 with the mission of reducing isolation and loneliness for older adults. Can you tell us what SilVR Adventures offers?

We offer a VR-based experience and communication solution to improve and enhance quality of life for older people. We’re a B2B provider to care homes, retirement living communities and hospitals across Australia and New Zealand and excitingly, now have our first UK client. We’re also working with home care providers.

What’s the back story?

We were established in 2019, so are not born out of a pandemic, nor are we the result of a Covid-pivot. We had identified the issue of isolation and loneliness for older people long before Covid arrived. I previously worked for an Israeli tech start up and when that company was acquired, I looked at data and analytics to see where other opportunities could be found. I read an article about the size of the elder care market, and its speed of growth, so I researched problems associated with aged care and set about finding a solution. Mental health, isolation, early-onset dementia and depression are all huge issues. I then looked at emerging tech and made the link with Virtual Reality.

I learned a lot about how detrimental poor mental health can be. Did you know loneliness can affect you physically as much as smoking 15 cigarettes a day?

The more I got into this and started working with older adults, the more I wanted to make their situation better than it is now.

We’ve discovered The Eden Alternative’s The Seven Domains of Well-Being framework, and it’s proving to be something of a north star for us. It aligns perfectly with our commitment to deliver immersive experiences that transcend the superficial, and connect with an individual’s identity, purpose and most importantly, joy.

Where do these experiences take place?

We often deliver our experiences in common spaces in aged care facilities or retirement villages. We try to bring the world to older adults – adventures like seeing the Aroura Borealis, visiting the Taj Mahal or viewing the Sistine Chapel.

But the purpose is not to merely to entertain.

We work hard to engage, educate and share fun experiences which will have benefits long after the video component has stopped. We start by learning about the people who will attend and tailoring the adventure to their needs and interests. We build VR tours, such as faith-based journeys to the Holy Land, culturally themed experiences, a romantic trip around Italy, or the street where you lived when you were a child.

These are powerful when run as shared experiences, which likely ripple out across the group, sparking social interaction, conversation, relationships. And memories – so many memories. Many clients are also on a new learning journey with additional support materials – perhaps if we’ve visited Japan, they then wish to try origami or to receive a postcard which allows them to paint what they’ve just seen. Or expand the VR session with quizzes, historical facts, and matched cuisine.

Typically a VR session lasts around an hour, with an introduction, a 30-minute or so VR experience and then, the most important part, the conclusion where everyone shares where they’ve been, what they’ve done, and memories this may have invoked.

What’s ahead in VR? What does the future look like?

It’s no secret that companies such as Meta (formerly Facebook) and Microsoft see VR as the next big thing, so there’s definitely a wave to ride. The hardware is quickly becoming cheaper, lighter and less intrusive. We’ll likely be using a pair of Ray Bans, rather than a solid headset, in a couple of years. Content creation will expand enormously, and we are leading the application of VR to the older population with access to one of the largest VR content libraries available.

How did your ACE podcasts come about?

I needed to evolve my knowledge in the aged care sector quickly. I came across so many interesting people with such useful and interesting knowledge – initially I kept their insights on sticky notes. And soon realised that there had to be an easier way to share this information. So we started the Aged Care Enrichment (ACE) podcast. We’re now  into Season Three, broadcasting twice a week, and are in the top 10% of podcasts globally. This is a valuable resource platform for anyone working in the industry – the content and participators are top notch. It’s been amazing to see how quickly it has grown.

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