A virtual reality streaming platform is taking retirement living residents to the opera in a new pilot launching this week.

Ryman Healthcare has partnered with live virtual reality streaming platform Inverse and Melba Opera Trust to take part in a pilot program that aims to evaluate how live opera impacts the mental wellbeing of residents using a VR streaming platform for a fully simulated front row ticket experience.

The pilot, which commences on 17 December, will involve eight residents including some living with dementia from Ryman Healthcare’s Nellie Melba Retirement Village in Victoria. 

The residents will experience a 60-minute live VR opera recital with performances from Melba Opera Trust alumni Stacey Alleaume, Nathan Lay, Michael Petruccelli and internationally renowned pianist Amir Farid. 

The recital will be hosted by the Mairi Nicolson, who is the host of the ABC’s The Opera Show. 

Ryman Healthcare operations quality manager Joanne Wang said the provider is excited to take part in the pilot. 

“There’s a mountain of research showing that music can have a hugely positive impact on people living with dementia. It can connect them to people and places in their past, stir emotions and memories, and just generally improve their wellbeing,” Ms Wang said.

Ms Wang said music is not only beneficial for residents living with dementia.

“Music is a life-enriching experience for people of all ages, and a big focus at all our villages is ensuring residents can continue to do the things they’ve loved doing their whole life,” she said.

“We just don’t know when people will be able to return to the theatre, so this virtual reality experience allows us to bring the outside world into our village for residents to enjoy.”

Inverse CEO and founder Darren Vukasinovic said they are excited to undertake the partnership.

Darren Vukasinovic

“We’re thrilled to be partnering with Ryman Healthcare and Melba Opera Trust in undertaking this pilot with Nellie Melba Retirement Village. We aim to support their efforts in delivering dynamic enrichment programs for their residents and look forward to treating them to an operatic experience like no other,” Mr Vukasinovic said.

He said the mental and emotional benefits of music are widely known.

“Live music has an even more profound impact on one’s feelings of health, happiness, and wellbeing,” he said. 

Melba Opera Trust CEO Amy Black, who previewed the recital in a VR headset, said the experience brought her to a world-class opera performance from the comfort of her own home.

“Being able to follow the artists around the room gave a totally fresh perspective of an operatic performance and, of course, the artistry and sound were superb. After the challenging year we have all endured, it was inspiring to feel as though I was once again in a room with live performance,” Ms Black said.

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