Edinburgh entrepreneur uses virtual reality so care home residents can travel the world
Rojan Subramani, 32, grew up in foster care in India before moving to Dubai and then eventually Edinburgh where he studied a HND to become a chef.
Having worked at fine dining establishments like the Prestonfield, the entrepreneur decided that he wanted to study Business at Edinburgh Napier.
Here he became student president and upon graduating he began setting out a business plan for his social enterprise DigiTechtive.
In 2019 he began to organise pop up virtual reality (VR) events at shopping and community centres, offering people who are not able to afford VR the opportunity to try the technology at an affordable cost.
Alongside this work, Rojan used the VR tech to support: “young homeless people, disadvantaged young people and young refugees through digital technology employment, and offering coaching so that they could acquire new skills.”
But when the pandemic hit he noticed that a number of elderly people in care homes felt trapped and unable to travel or maintain a reasonable level of fitness.
It was at that time that the winner of the Loyds Bank entrepreneur programme decided to adapt his enterprise model to offer a new affordable service to the elderly.
He said: “I grew up in foster care and have been lucky to receive help from various people and community organisations throughout my life, so I understand the importance in trying to help societies most vulnerable.
“In the past we had been teaching young people from disadvantaged backgrounds how to use the technology and helped them gain employment. But when watching the news during the pandemic I realised that so many elderly people in care homes were trapped with little options for exercising.
“It was then that I decided that our VR social enterprise would be perfect for residents of care homes. So I contacted a company in the US and collaborated with them in order to get the perfect product for our new clients and what we are able to offer 12 different locations with over 40 different workout tracks. Some of our clients have really enjoyed cycling the streets of San Francisco and Paris.
“DigiTechtive’s objective is to give Care Home residents a fun experience to relieve the stress brought by isolation. Residents are immersed in a virtual world where they can experience places they have wanted to visit and/or to revisit places they enjoyed during their early years. Care Home Residents can explore a virtual representation of the real world through a pedal exercise bike from the comfort and safety of their favourite armchair. This virtual reality (VR) combines fitness with exploration to make it a fun and engaging experience.
“Quarantine has created many challenges that have had profound impacts on financial, physical, psychological, and emotional health among elderly people. And in the past 30 years, researchers have found that regular physical activity participation has beneficial effects on older adults’ health and wellbeing.
“The four most common poor health conditions seen in older adults are decreased motor ability, increased obesity, impaired cognition, and psychological disorders. The prevalence of obesity in older adults puts them not only at higher risk for developing cardiovascular diseases but also acquiring a disability and remaining physically impaired.
“Older adults with cognitive impairment are twice as likely to have a fall. Depression, anxiety disorder, and dementia are the most prevalent psychological problems in older adults. It is important to develop and implement effective intervention strategies that can prevent or reverse these adverse health outcomes to improve older adults’ quality of life.
“VR exercise is a novel and innovative technology, which immerses individuals in a computer-generated, multi-sensory, three-dimensional world wherein they interact with the virtual environment using a headset and exercise equipment. VR has been shown to be effective in exercise promotion, which has led to multiple health benefits.”
Credit to EdinburghLive