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Local residents enjoying District's virtual reality classes

Virtual success! Participants enjoying new Adventures in VR classes

The District’s new “Adventures in VR” classes sold out very quickly when we first offered them in fall 2022! Nearly 75 people enjoyed an immersive, 3-D journey by sea and land and as of November 2023 that number has grown to 300. Feedback from participants has been so positive that 19 new classes were added in the first quarter of the new year, including space for independent adventures.

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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.
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“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,” Mariana said.

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 who 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, former 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 13 and up.

Ed Puscher, who attended an introductory class with his wife, Hilde, signed up for “Intermediate Adventures in VR” using the “BRINK Traveler” application immediately after his first class. BRINK Traveler is educational and takes participants virtually to national and state parks.

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.

If you’ve never experienced VR, the District is offering many introductory classes in the new year. For those who have taken a class or have experience with VR, new offerings at the intermediate level can be viewed here

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VR offers brain training exercises

The importance of maintaining excellent brain health is more important than ever as studies show the impact on quality of life. Being mentally active is a great way to keep our brains healthy, particularly as we approach our senior years. Put on one of our virtual reality headsets and participate in brain-training exercises that are immersive and fun. We use the application "Alcove." You'll enter virtually a home, select a cube in the living room and have your choice of three brain training exercises. Within the hour, you may have time for all three!

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VR classes offer immersive experiences

Come explore with us. Join us for Adventures in VR. We are very excited for this opportunity to address depression and isolation in such a creative manner and look forward to sharing it with you. You'll have an opportunity to learn the equipment, practice using the application "First Steps" and then join one of introductory level explorations: snorkeling virtually in an underwater safari park in Ocean Rift, exploring the natural world and encountering 20 different animals in Nature Treks or learning Tai Chi in an environment of your choosing, including an igloo or tropical island!

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