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Adventures in VR a virtual success

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Participants enjoying new Adventures in VR classes

The District’s new “Adventures in VR” classes sold out very quickly! Nearly 75 people enjoyed an immersive, 3-D journey by sea and land when we piloted the program in fall 2022. Feedback from participants has been so positive that 36 new classes have been added in the first quarter of 2023.

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According to class surveys:

  • 84% enjoyed the experience:
  • 68% agreed or strongly agreed that their mood was uplifted after experiencing virtual reality.
  • 78% agreed or strongly agreed that they enjoyed talking about the VR experience with others.
  • 84% participants agreed or strongly agreed they would try another VR class.
  • 97% agreed or strongly agreed they would recommend the program to others.

“I love to see the smiles on their faces and listen to the oohs and ahhs while they’re in the virtual environment, and then receive their feedback as we talk about their experiences,” said Mariana Gutierrez, health promotion coordinator with the District.

“This program seems to be having a positive effect on people. We’ve seen a lot of people sign up for a second class or join our interest list immediately after their first class.”

According to a study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Integrated Design and Management and MIT AgeLab, VR has positive effects on participants’ social and emotional well-being, which is reflected in the District’s survey results as well.

The study stated, “Compared to the control group, those that interacted with the VR system were more likely to feel good about their own health, more likely to feel positive emotions, less likely to be depressed, and less likely to feel socially isolated…

“While not all the differences were statistically significant, the overall trend in the findings show possibilities for use of VR applications for improving the quality of life among older adults.”

Joanne Kennedy, vice chairwoman of the Camarillo Council on Aging, participated in the District’s introductory class, “Ocean Rift,” where she swam virtually with manatees, sea lions, turtles, dolphins and other sea creatures.

“I thought it would be exciting because of the potential for seniors getting to experience something new in life and the potential for helping to alleviate feelings of isolation,” she said. “I experienced a whole new way of interacting with the environment. It was fun and I really enjoyed it. It really did seem like you were in another world.”

The average age of participants in the District’s “Adventures in VR” classes has been 73, with the oldest 93 and the youngest 51. The class is available to anyone 14 and up. Possible pie chart????

Hilde Puscher, who attended a class with her husband, Ed, experienced some motion sickness while using the “Ocean Rift” VR application, but she said it won’t stop her from returning. She signed up for “Intermediate Adventures in VR” using the “BRINK Traveler” application, which is educational and takes participants virtually to national and state parks. Hilde wants to see Antelope Canyon, located on private land within the Navajo Nation, in Northern Arizona. It has been shaped by millions of years of water and wind erosion.

“I’ve seen pictures and heard about it,” she said. “I don’t think we’ll ever get there in person, so I think it would be great to go (virtually).”

Ed, who used VR a couple years ago, said he thought the technology had improved in its ability to allow people to navigate spaces.

“The experience was very positive for me,” he said. “The hand controllers allowed me to move around and do all kinds of things.”

In addition to throwing paper airplanes and dancing with a robot in “First Steps,” the application that introduces new users to the hand controllers, Ed explored the ocean virtually and encountered a few whales and other sea life.

“It was very realistic,” he said.

If you’ve never experienced VR, the District is offering many introductory classes. For those who have taken a class or have experience with VR, new offerings at the intermediate level include the applications “Guided Tai Chi,” “Wander,” “Alcove” and a 3-part series using “BRINK Traveler.”

The District recommends the VR “Guided Tai Chi” class to people who have already taken the (real life!) in-person “Tai Chi for Arthritis” class. The “Wander” series offers an opportunity for participants to view their childhood homes from the street, their hometowns or any major city around the world using Google Street Maps. Choose to take a virtual road trip across the States in a convertible car, see the Swiss Alps or Kenya by hot-air balloon, or explore the streets of Paris, among other locations, in a double-decker bus using the “Alcove” application.


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