It would not be the last time Hayes and Dennis Lally saw the transformative impact of virtual reality (VR). Their startup, Rendever, has since brought its VR experiences to more than 100 senior living communities, and has launched in hospitals to extend the enthralling world of VR to patients of all ages.
“It’s amazing to see them point things out to each other and engage with one another, yelling ‘Look left!’ Or ‘There’s a puppy at our feet!’” says Grace Andruszkiewicz, Rendever’s director of marketing and partnerships. “Or, if they’re in Paris, someone might say, ‘I was in Paris in 1955 and there was this cute café,’ and people start adding details and telling their own stories. That’s where the magic happens.”
Since then, everyone at the company has racked up a series of unforgettable memories watching older adults use the platform. Lally remembers one early test when they gave an older woman the experience of seeing the Notre-Dame cathedral in France.
“Once there was an older adult who just kept saying ‘I want to go home,’ but she was in an assisted living community because she was showing signs of dementia,” Hayes remembers. “With the technology that we’d built, we were able to type in the address of her home and take her there. And she started crying tears of joy. She kept saying, ‘This is the most beautiful place in the world.’”
Rendever is also deploying its system outside of senior living communities. A study with UCHealth in Colorado used Rendever’s VR as a distraction for patients undergoing unpleasant treatments such as chemotherapy. After the program, 88 percent of participants said they’d use VR again.
For years, an elderly woman named Mickey was the most outgoing and friendly person in her Connecticut assisted living community. She knew everyone’s name, was a regular at community events, and always had a smile on her face.