87-Year-Old Man’s Lifelong Dream Of Hiking The Grand Canyon Made Possible Through VR

Rendever and Wish of a Lifetime from AARP team up to help one Pennsylvania senior achieve a lifelong goal.

Ever since he was a kid, George Hetrick dreamed of traveling to Arizona to see the Grand Canyon. Unfortunately, as Hetrick got older, the 87-year-old man Pennsylvania-native was forced to face the harsh reality that he would be unable to pursue his dream due to certain health and, of course, COVID-19 related-travel restrictions. 

But thanks to Rendever—a company that partners with senior living communities across the USA and Canada to combat social isolation using VR, along with Wish of a Lifetime from AARP—Hetrick was able to overcome those obstacles and virtually hike the Grand Canyon alongside his wife and son.

Image Credit: Rendever

During an interview with VRScout, Hetrick talked about how he was able to cross off visiting the Grand Canyon from his bucket list, saying, “My friend Kathy Penta informed me of the Wish of a Lifetime from AARP program. She assisted me with the application procedure.” Hetrick wasn’t sure if he’d get picked, but was thrilled when he finally heard back, saying, “Months later I was surprised when I found out that I was selected.”

Generously enough, Hetrick was selected for an actual trip to the Grand Canyon, a challenging task for Hetrick due to his physical impairments. To make things even more difficult, travelling had since become incredibly complicated due to COVID-19. That’s when Rendever, a VR platform catering to seniors, stepped in and proposed the idea of a virtual Grand Canyon experience. 

Kyle Rand, Cofounder and CEO of Rendever, told VRScout, “Having seen the work we’ve done with other seniors worldwide, Wish of a Lifetime from AARP reached out to us to ask if we could help George travel to the Grand Canyon virtually. Obviously, we were eager to get involved and make this wish come true.”

Image Credit: Rendever

For Hetrick, the virtual trip to the Grand Canyon felt real and helped him create new memories for him and his son, Matthew. “It was a very pleasing experience. You can look in every direction including up and down, the color and textures are very vivid. It really gives you an idea of the size and grandeur of the Grand Canyon.”

Rand tells me that seeing reactions from people like George never gets old. It’s moments like this that make him passionate about the work being done by Rendever and is incredibly thankful to be a part of stories like Henricks’. One reason why Rand is so passionate about the work being done at Rendever is that he personally saw the negative effects that social isolation had on his own grandmother. He knew VR could make a huge difference in the quality of life for seniors all over the world.

Since launching Rendever four years ago, Rand and his team have delivered over 650,000 experiences to tens of thousands of residents across nearly 200 senior living communities. Most recently, the team launched MultiBrush, a multiplayer open source code for Tilt Brush that will be a powerful tool in Rendever’s work combating social isolation through immersive art therapy.

With many senior homes restricting visitors because of COVID, spending time with loved ones has become extremely difficult. Imagine jumping into MultiBrush to socialize and paint with your grandparents from the safety of your respective homes. Using VR in this way opens up so many opportunities in the senior healthcare industry, and Hetrick agrees.

“I think that VR technology gives people from around the world shared experiences and hopefully a mutual appreciation of the beauty of the planet. As far as transporting people, it made it possible for me to visit the views and grandeur of the Grand Canyon. Given my physical limitations, this would not have been possible without a VR experience.”

Click here if you’d like to know more about Rendever, MultiBrush, and the work being done to overcome social isolation.

Feature Image Credit: Rendever

About the Scout

Bobby Carlton

Hello, my name is Bobby Carlton. When I'm not exploring the world of immersive technology, I'm writing rock songs about lost love. I'd also like to mention that I can do 25 push-ups in a row.

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