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Akron startup uses virtual reality to take senior citizens on trips to special places

Posted at 5:55 PM, Oct 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-30 18:11:48-04

AKRON, Ohio — In a matter of moments, 88-year-old Doloros Ekus was transported from her assisted living home in Richfield to one of her favorite places to visit when she was younger-- Stan Hywet Gardens in Akron.

Ekus, a resident of The Inn at Apple Ridge, donned virtual reality googles and headphones and was spellbound as she described the vibrant colors in the video right before her eyes.

"The flowers are magnificent and beautiful foliage, all kinds of colors. It's just like I was there alive. It's just lovely," Ekus said.

Providing VR trips to seniors in hospices, centers and nursing homes is the goal of an Akron startup called Immersive Cure, which is owned by Jessica Benson.

"What we want to do is take people who may have pain, anxiety or stress or feel isolated and what we're able to do is transport them somewhere else," Benson said.

The company is located on Main Street inside Akron's Bounce Innovation Hub, which currently houses 36 startups and 14 other organizations. Bounce opened in 2018 to serve Ohio's entrepreneurial and innovation community.

Benson demonstrates the $3,000 "RoVR!" backpack kits at various senior living facilities. Her first sale came a few months ago when Stein Hospice in Sandusky purchased four of the units.

Benson believes more Hospice buildings will follow suit because the emotionally-charged VR experience can reduce pain.

"Virtual reality is actually clinically proven to mitigate pain by 30%," she said.

Benson also offers VR journeys to Kelley's Island and the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. She recently took video of the Pocono Mountains, Washington National Cathedral, the Korean War Veterans Memorial and the Word War II Memorial.

She plans to continue expanding her library and is also focused on providing more options for veterans.

"This is something that gets in your soul," Benson said. "You have to help people when you know it can. You can't hold back. You can't not do it."

Ekus believes the technology will help many people "in her age bracket" forget about health or personal problems by taking them to a favorite location or somewhere they've never visited.

"It's such a nice experience that they can see and it just seems to take you to another dimension."