An assisted living resident tries the virtual reality system. (Photo: MIT)

Maplewood Senior Living recently facilitated a resident’s visit back to her hometown in Maine, where she stopped in at her childhood home.

This trip, however, was virtual, as in virtual reality, or VR.

“It was quite a thing to see,” said Brian Geyser, Maplewood’s vice president of clinical innovation and population health. New technologies such as VR can expand residents’ world, he added.

Geyser, whose appointment was announced in July, was hired to lead innovation at the Westport, CT-based company, which owns and operates 14 communities in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Ohio.

VR technology is the focus of one of several pilot projects being coordinated through Maplewood’s new Center for Aging Innovation and Technology, which Geyser oversees, the company announced Tuesday.

Goals of the effort include finding ways to increase resident independence, better manage health and wellness, broaden social connectedness and improve safety and quality of life.

Maplewood is investing “significant resources” toward innovation, Geyser said, because “we recognize the challenges and the opportunities ahead of us, and we’re not afraid to take on the inherent risks innovation poses as the potential benefits are enormous.”

Technology and approaches being tested at Maplewood:

  • The Rendever virtual reality system, which is specifically designed for older adults and which helped the aforementioned resident visit her hometown. The technology, which also has been tested at Brookdale Senior Living and Benchmark Senior Living, offers immersive experiences designed to entertain, spark memories, foster social connections and reduce stress and anxiety.
  • Eversound wireless, noise-cancelling headphones, which can be used one-on-one or during group activities to help residents hear more clearly, thereby improving engagement. To date, Maplewood said, 80% of residents who tested the headphones continue to use them, and they report more enjoyment and engagement during activities. Atria Senior Living, Benchmark Senior Living, Brightview Senior Living, Brookdale Senior Living, Commonwealth Senior Living, Integral Senior Living, LCB Senior Living and Sunrise Senior Living are among the other companies also using the headphone technology.
  • Falls prevention systems through which Maplewood hopes to reduce fall rates among high-risk residents.
  • Skype Lounges, rooms that enable full Skype capabilities using large, easy-to-see screens and optimal sound, so residents can join family members at important events they may otherwise be unable to attend, such as a grandchild’s birthday, graduation or wedding.

Geyser, who recently was named “ambassador” for a new Maplewood-supported Aging2.0 New Haven, CT, Chapter, the only Aging2.0 chapter in Connecticut, also plans to work with health systems, provider groups, accountable care organizations, universities and advocacy organizations in addition to coordinating research related to vendor technology.

The Center for Aging Innovation and Technology, originally planned for launch in 2018, “helps us demonstrate the art of what is possible by incorporating new technologies, experiences and services into the lives of our residents,” said Gregory D. Smith, president and CEO of Maplewood Senior Living. It “demonstrate[s] to our clients how we convert next-generation solutions into tangible tools and outcomes,” he added.

Those clients relate to Maplewood’s 14 existing communities and will relate to future communities planned for Princeton, NJ; Southport, CT; and the Upper East Side of Manhattan, too. The latter project is part of the company’s newest brand, Inspīr, geared toward residents who seek an urban environment.