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Here at Rendever, we really pride ourselves on the human-centered approach that guides our everyday conversations. While it’s easier to sit in our office and develop what we think residents would like, it’s far more productive to take the time and understand what life is actually like in assisted living.

This is why we count ourselves so lucky to have found Kaela. While collecting early feedback about the efficacy of our platform, we visited a lot of great assisted living communities in our own backyard. One afternoon at Neville Place, located a short drive west from the MIT campus, our cofounder Reed was discussing the product with the executive director and a couple staff members, including Kaela. She had been working closely with the memory care neighborhood at Neville, and had great ideas about how to better use our platform with the residents she interacted with on a daily basis. After Reed left that afternoon, Kaela made the proactive decision to reach out and see how she could get involved – we couldn’t be happier that she did.

There’s something absolutely invaluable about adding so much 1:1 experience to the team developing this technology. While we’ve all spent time living and volunteering at different facilities, Kaela brings the unique perspective of somebody who knows a small cohort of these residents intimately. Kaela started volunteering at Neville Place over 7 years ago, and the connections she has made over the years are nothing short of significant. When I asked her what the most rewarding aspect of her time has been, her response was telling. “It’s so weird to me when people ask me that. It’s not about me feeling good, I just love them. That’s it.”

This heavily integrated viewpoint is going to be crucial to pushing our product to the next level, and evolving it to a point that addresses the needs of everyone in these communities. While most activity directors spend a lot of time coordinating monthly schedules of events, for Kaela they serve as more of a guideline. “The day is typically preplanned, but it’s very open to me deciding what might be best. I always try to stay in tune with what they want to do. They’re welcome to come and go as they please – they don’t have to participate; they can certainly say no, and some of them do.” What does that mean for Rendever? First, we must offer a combination of easily guided activities, and experiences that are more self-directed. But more importantly, the structure of our sessions needs to be flexible. It goes without saying that virtual reality is an involved technology – the depth is in the name. While we want to create the most realistic experience, it’s critical that we’re not locking any resident into anything. The experience of jumping into a session should be easy, and the freedom to leave at will needs to be felt.

As Kaela is quick to note, we shouldn’t just rely on her words. “Just spend more time in assisted living. There are lots of ideas about how memory care should be run, but you can’t understand the details until you’ve experienced the complexities.” There’s no doubting that she’s right, and we’re actively looking for communities that we can visit for the weekend. If you’re interested in trying virtual reality in your community, we would happily bring the product for you to trial while we’re there. Reach out to dennis@rendever.com and let’s set a playdate.

Some other interesting tidbits Kaela has shared:

  • For a lot of her residents, Elvis is the bee’s knees.
  • There are countless articles pointing to bingo as the number one activity in these facilities, but would you guess that a daily recital of the Pledge of Allegiance is a strong ritual?
  • When families come to visit, there is a profound lingering effect of happiness.
  • Speaking of happiness – happy hour starts at 6:30!