Virtual reality a hit at NY rehab facility

ELIZABETHTOWN, N.Y. (WCAX) A New York rehab and nursing facility is trying something out of this world with its residents -- virtual reality.

From roller coaster rides to submersible shark cages, the residents of Essex Center in Elizabethtown are on a VR adventure.

"It's not something that they've ever used before, this is technology that's so new to them," said Candy Goff, the center's activity director.

Over the last several months, 100 residents have been submerging themselves in the 360 degree experience that allows them to leave the center for a little bit -- sort of.

"Anything that they wanted to do and maybe couldn't, or maybe things they used to do and can't anymore. It really puts you in that situation and makes you feel like you're really doing it," Goff said.

Goff says residents like Susan Childs and Steve Deshane line up every morning to get their hands on the set. She says it brings them "pure happiness."
Some scenes aren't for the faint of heart. "The shark just came and bit the cage," exclaimed Childs. And Deshane says the roller coaster ride can make you grab the edge of your seat.

Some residents aren't as adventurous as these two and are more likely to pick a nature walk or visit a travel destination spot without leaving home, the goggles transporting them to a different reality.

"Nobody ever wants to come to a long-term care facility, so it's our job to make sure that they're having fun, that they're engaged, their quality of life is still good, and that's why we always try to find new things. And this, to me, is one of the best things that we've used here," Goff said.

The virtual reality headsets cost about $200 but the Essex Center said it was worth every penny because of how successful its been with their residents. They say they hope other long-term rehab facilities look into the idea as well.