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Creating rehab in any setting imaginable


A virtual reality developer that has been working with elderly people in their homes to facilitate stroke rehabilitation is planning to bring the technology to residential aged care facilities.

Adelaide-based Add-Life Technologies creates virtual environments for people to do their rehabilitation in any setting they can imagine.

The technology allows people to build skills that are necessary for their rehabilitation, said Tony Aitchison, a research scientist and Add-Life’s managing director.

“We develop experiences where the client can utilise all the movements and make all the cognitive improvements that are necessary,” Mr Aitchison told Australian Ageing Agenda.

“We do this in a way that a person finds most engaging, for example, you can be making a cup of tea, playing music or playing sport.”

A demonstration video shows 70-year-old Bonney Tomlinson in her VR headset practicing her co-ordination and dexterity.

The view from inside the headset shows Tomlinson picking up balls in a custom-made stereoscopic environment.

Bonnie Tomlinson using the virtual reality technology (left) and a view from within the headset (right)

If a particular environment is not appealing to a user, there are many options to switch to, Mr Aitchison said.

The key thing is that the user is taking control of their rehabilitation and gaining more independence, he said.

“Instead of always having to travel to a rehab centre, they can work on their rehabilitation at home whilst still being connected to their occupational therapist through the cloud.”

Mr Aitchison said they were in discussions to bring their services to residential aged care facilities, where he saw its potential, particularly to support therapies and activities designed to reduce the incidence and effects of dementia.

“We design micro-challenges focused on problem-solving to keep the brain active,” he said.

Feedback critical

The organisation won the South Australian Premier’s Ageing Well Innovation Challenge last year and Mr Aitchison and Add-Life’s technical director Daish Malani subsequently joined a trade mission to India.

Mr Malani, a VR specialist and graphic designer said “a positive feedback loop” was a critical aspect of the technology, which tracks the client’s use and adapts to their individual needs and goals.

“Every time you do something the system records that and either makes it easier for you if it’s too challenging or makes it harder if it’s too easy.”

Users graduate from activities as they achieve their goals. The tool is flexible, self-guided and can be mood-based, Mr Malani said.

“Most people will do a couple of different things in one session depending on how they feel and what their particular goals are in that moment or on that day.”

It can also be used for 15 minutes a day instead of for longer weekly rehabilitation sessions, he said.

Mr Malani said they recently simplified their technology in response to feedback from aged care facility managers who expressed concern there were too many wires and buttons, which made it confusing for residents and busy staff members.

“There’s just one on button now, which should make the experience even more accessible.”

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