SilVR Champion: Laura Coleman, AVIVO’s enchanting Practice Advisor, Older People and Dementia
A beacon of hope in an otherwise isolating world, AVIVO is a not-for-profit organisation that offers a solution so those who need assistance in their daily lives may still retain their independence. Located in Western Australia, this is one exemplary organisation that is paving the way for every individual to be able to choose their own narrative and live out their best life.
“We were able to have chat with our newest inductee into the SilVR Champion’s Hall of Fame, Laura Coleman, Practice Advisor of the Older People and Dementia division of AVIVO. They have been using SilVR Adventure’s programs across their client base with the view to keeping loneliness, among other things, at bay.
How the (adventures) impact their hereafter, we have yet to see. But the people living with dementia, they might not actually remember particular names or people, but they will remember the visit to Japan for example.
So they remember that, and they’re definitely up for another adventure for next time. And in that moment, you could see and feel and hear their enjoyment. It will definitely be interesting to see how this impacts them in the future for the long term – that would be a great study.”
Beyond the seemingly tangible sense of elation that the program has afforded, Laura was also keen to impart some heart warming stories that folks in the AVIVO community have experienced while on their shared adventures:
“There was an Indian couple who, well he had a stroke several years ago and is quite disabled by that stroke. They were born in India and lived there and in their 20’s moved to London. And that’s where they met, in London. They got married, had kids and then came to Australia 25 years ago, but they’ve never been back to India. They were from two separate part of India too. So we took them on SilVR’s guided Tour of India, and it was just really lovely to hear them talk about it during, and afterwards.
That conversation that went around the room, for the chap that had that stroke, he just went right back there (to India), and he started to talk about his time, that he was a steam train driver!
They’re in their 80’s now, so this was way back in the day, they were both transported right back there. It just invoked all sorts of memories and the most interesting thing about those two is, she is now the carer. And she’s quite stressed by that because it’s heavy work, and it’s almost like one day you are husband and wife and then suddenly you are the carer and the entire dynamic of your relationship shifts. But in that moment, after taking them to India, they were talking and laughing, and they were just husband and wife again. They were coming back to the core of who they were.”
Reconnecting with your loved ones has been quite a common occurrence in the SilVR experience, but there are even opportunities to bring strangers together too. Laura goes on:
“There were these two chaps living with dementia who didn’t know each other – they both came in separately with their respective support workers to have an adventure. One of them was keen and vocal and said he wanted to go to Japan. He said that he was in the Australian Navy, and he really wanted to go back there. The other chap was a bit more reserved, looking around and just a little bit uneasy. But we ended up going to Japan and he was okay with that.
You could see his body language changing that time, he was connecting and interacting and being part of the whole Japan experience. And afterwards, when the headsets came off, these two chaps who didn’t know each other beforehand went on to share some lunch!”
Beyond shared VR experiences bringing strangers together and reconnecting families, Laura had one other story for us, where a love for one who has passed reaches beyond the afterlife to invoke feelings of great nostalgia and gratitude for the opportunity to share moments that enable their memory to live on:
“There was one other man who wanted to go to Japan, the support worker had no idea why but of course he took him on that adventure and afterward, he was so animated, and he started to talk about his son, who lived in Japan for many years.
His son had sent him many pictures, letters, and postcards, so he knew all these places but had never been there. So, seeing it now was really good for him, but then he mentioned that his son had passed on.
That was big. We were a bit worried at that point, but he was actually fine. He wanted to find all the letters and read them all again and relive it all, in a positive way. Because in that hour, he was connected again with his son. That’s the main point of it.”
The community that Laura and her team at AVIVO tirelessly support continue to grow, and their capacity to give their clients meaningful experiences are vital to bringing a greater quality of life. As they have witnessed and shared thus far, it has been a humbling experience that serves as a reminder of the importance of true human connection – a connection facilitated by the use of shared experiences in Virtual Reality with SilVR Adventures.
For more information on Avivo, please visit: https://www.avivo.org.au/