Retirement homes helping seniors virtually bike through old neighbourhoods
Angela Mulholland, CTVNews.ca Staff
Published Wednesday, April 18, 2018 10:00PM EDT
Some Canadian retirement homes have begun letting residents go for virtual trips down memory lane, without ever leaving the home, thanks to the help of interesting technology.
The system they’re using is called BikeAround. It allows users to virtually bike around their old neighbourhoods, using a stationary bicycle and a giant screen projecting Google Street Views of the streets they used to know.
The system was developed in Sweden. The engineers were looking for a way to help seniors with memory loss or dementia to exercise both their bodies and their minds, in hopes of sparking memories and conversation.
George Fermanis, who works in the technology for aging industry, recently brought into Canada the first two of the $20,000 units. He says that too often, retirement home residents never leave the safety and the familiarity of the premises. Or, they spend most of their days in their rooms simply watching TV.
“We wanted to find a more meaningful way to help them and to preserve old memories and help bring them back,” he told CTV News.
Fermanis recently set up a BikeAround system at the Carriage House Retirement Residence in Oshawa Ont. That’s where 78-year-old resident Doug Brunton recently tried it out.
Fermanis typed in an address that Brunton remembered from his childhood and then Brunton got on the bike for a ride. As he rode, he looked around, noticing what’s changed in his old neighbourhood between the time he was there and when the Google Street View cameras went by. Brunton says he was amazed at what he saw.
“This is incredible, I can’t believe this,” he said as he slowly, virtually biked down his street.
Yvette and Howard Thornton, who met and fell in love at the residence, used the system to show each other where they grew up, stirring up happy memories as they went.
Now they want to use the system to go somewhere new -- “I've always wanted to go to Switzerland,” says Yvette – for a vacation they can share without ever leaving home.
With a report from CTV medical specialist Avis Favaro and producer Elizabeth St. Philip