Retirement Home Residents Enjoy Broadway and Virtual Reality Skydiving


Residents of Springdale’s retirement community, Maple Knoll Village, have been busier than usual lately. They took the stage with Lion King artists in New York, playing with puppies, and rafting the Colorado River – all pretty much of course.

Roy “Scooter” Franks, 88, says he knew nothing about virtual reality (VR) until he was part of a pilot program during the Maple Knoll pandemic.

“It’s completely different than taking a magazine or a book and reading it,” he says. “You’re still sitting in your chair or whatever. It (VR) creates an activity that makes you more active.”

The Colorado River trip was his favorite because he really did. He wasn’t as much of a skydiving fan as many of the other residents. “I don’t know how high they start, but you have a long way to go,” Franks says.

Virtual reality is now open to all residents of the retirement community.

Virtual reality was a technology that Maple Knoll’s chief innovation officer Andy Craig was excited to bring to residents. “Even before the pandemic, we have residents who can’t make it to different off-campus events or even travel across the country or the world,” he says. “The idea was that if you can’t physically leave campus and enjoy the arts or travel, we can do it virtually.”

Residents can choose from the following categories:

  • Adventure
  • Art
  • Learning
  • Music
  • Nature
  • Pets
  • To travel

The program comes from MyndVR, which aims to improve the quality of life for older people. MyndVR has collaborated with the Virtual Human Interaction Lab at Stanford University to study the effects of virtual reality on people for two decades. Stanford chose Maple Knoll Village as one of the retirement communities to participate in this study.
Maple Knoll VP of Marketing and Development Megan Ulrich knows virtual reality makes life better. “Where we really see this has a huge benefit is also in our assisted living and in skilled nursing,” she says. “So these people have been restricted because of COVID for the past year and a half, so they haven’t had a chance to come out.”

Maple Knoll’s Bailey Wallingford is helping residents get started. “It was pretty funny watching them because nobody can see you because they all have goggles and they all look up and down. But they really enjoyed it,” she says.

Scooter’s biggest obstacle to continued VR use might be its busy lifestyle. He may not have time. “I keep a pretty active life,” he says. “And so I should have, you know, a lot of rainy days when I couldn’t play golf or something like that.”

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