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Virtual trips bring huge smiles

ELEANOR KRASKA recently tried out the virtual reality goggles at the Kittson Healthcare Nursing Home. She was viewing a farm scene where pigs were running through the yard.

By Anna Jauhola
Seeing different countries, feeding chickens or riding roller coasters are all activities the Kittson Healthcare Nursing Home has added to its roster for residents.
And they don’t even have to travel to do so.
Through a generous donation, the activities department was able to purchase two virtual reality devices earlier this year. These goggles allow residents to visit places they’ve never been and relive similar memories from their lives. They allow for a 360-degree view of places like Stonehenge, beach or waterfall scenes, and farmyards.
“One lady watching someone feeding animals lifted up her legs and said, ‘The pigs are coming! The pigs are coming!’” said Jimann Cozzen, activities director. “Then another lady was going all over the dining room in her wheelchair. They just really enjoy it.”
“You couldn’t wipe the smiles off their faces,” said Eddie Cozzen, activities aide. “Not just the smiles, but the complete amazement of what they were seeing.”
The residents are familiar with the Geomaster slide viewers from the 1980s, but had never before seen virtual reality views.
“When they put these on, they were dumbfounded by the technology,” Eddie said. “It’s amazing.”
The goggles were pretty spendy and had been on the Cozzens’ list of items to purchase.
So when Patti and Charlie Swanson wanted to donate money for something special, the Cozzens settled on the goggles.
They were able to purchase two pair of goggles at $1,000 each.
But that is the set cost and the goggles, which connect to the internet, will automatically upgrade software at no cost.
The goggles also came preloaded with various viewing programs and they can also be connected to YouTube to view almost any program they want.
“It’s interesting to see how, when people have them on, they get to talking. They get more interactive,” Eddie said. “It’s neat to watch.”
The goggles not only allow viewers to see a 360-degree view of the scene, but let them also move through the scene. With such an interactive activity, the Cozzens will assist residents by wheeling or leading them around to see the wonders of sunsets in Costa Rica or the giant iron ore ships coming into the harbor at Duluth.
The pair of goggles can also be synced so two people can see the same scenes and enjoy the view together.
The goggles are an exciting addition to the activities department at Kittson Healthcare Nursing Home and the Cozzens hope they can bring joy to residents for many years.

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