Technology and Website

‘Out of this world’: New technology set to help local seniors

The lead agency is Waypoint Center for Mental Health Care which works collaboratively with partners to support frail older adults and their caregivers

“I’m out of this world, that’s for sure,” said Gloria Howe, describing her virtual reality experience at Barrie’s IOOF Seniors Homes on Tuesday afternoon.

North Simcoe Muskoka (NSM) Specialized Geriatric Services program, in collaboration with the IOOF, held an interactive presentation showing the impact of technology on the care provided to older adults in the region.

NSM hopes to help revolutionize the way older adults connect with their loved ones, ensure their safety and introduce them to immersive nostalgic experiences.

Betty Munro, 93, also an IOOF resident, like Howe, experienced virtual reality on the International Space Station with the Meta Quest 2 headset.

“I thought it was absolutely fantastic, it’s amazing,” she said. “I saw the Earth from above.

“To see something like that at my age is phenomenal,” Munro added. “I saw the space station and the clouds. Just moving slow. It was very relaxing.”

Recreation therapists, as well as residents themselves, tried some of the available technology at the Brooke Street facility to better understand how it can be integrated into their everyday lives.

As part of this initiative, older adults live in long-term care homes and in the community are being provided with devices.

They include Google Nest Hub, Google Nest Mini, Alexa Show, Apple AirTag, and Meta Quest virtual reality headsets. They could open up a world of possibilities for older adults by enabling video chats with family and friends, providing access to information through voice commands and facilitating entertainment through immersive experiences.

Jenna Davis, a recreational therapist with NSM, works with frail older adults in the community, in long-term care and retirement homes.

Also one client in her 70s who lives in a remote area where she really enjoys going out for walks.

“Now that she’s having increased cognitive impairment, her daughter is more and more concerned about her going out on her own for those walks,” Davis said. “So in order to maintain her autonomy and her independence and continue to go for those walks, because we know walking and physical activity is really good for overall well-being and physical health, but also mental health, we are giving her an Apple AirTag to put on her person.

“We’re going to make sure when she goes out for those walks, that she has it with her. That way her daughter can make sure that she can keep track of where her mom is, but the client can still have her autonomy, go for those walks on her own and be safe,” she added.

Davis said the woman will get the AirTag next week.

As for the technology, its uses are many and varied.

Google Nest Hubs and Alexa Echo Shows, for example, are similar. Both are smart screens which can set alarms, reminders (for medications, appointments, important events, etc.), as well as providing verbal, visual answers to any questions asked. They also have the ability to video call, stream music and television shows.

The Apple AirTag helps those who are on the move, as it has ultra-wide band tracking abilities, so the location of the AirTag and whatever it is attached to (a walker, rollator, wristband, etc.), will be available for care partners who have a compatible iOS device (iPhone, iPad).

Meta Quest 2 units show how virtual reality can be used to enhance the lives of older adults. It provides the ability to have immersive experiences while remaining in your home.

Overall, these technological devices can help clinicians and care partners support the health of older adults from a holistic point of view.

“Technology is so important for older adults as it can help support the cognitive, vision, hearing and mobility needs of the person,” said NSM’s Sandra Easson-Bruno. “And on the other side of the coin, caregivers are able to keep track of their loved one using an Apple AirTag, which we have found useful for older adults who may get lost on a walk.”

North Simcoe Muskoka Specialized Geriatric Services provides specialized geriatric care and support to older adults in this region to enhance the well-being and quality of life for older adults and their families. Its lead agency is Waypoint Center for Mental Health Care and they work collaboratively with partners to support frail older adults and their caregivers.

IOOF Seniors Homes is a not-for-profit organization, operating several facilities in Barrie and has been serving the needs of residents for more than 100 years. It offers long-term care, convalescent care, assisted living, affordable rental apartments and independently owned life-leased apartments.