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She drove with admirable precision, navigating tight corners, long straightaways, and bodies of water. And whales. Beluga whales to be exact.
Kathryn (Kat) Schumpert, life enrichment manager of GreenFields of Geneva, effectively steered a BeamPro telepresence robot through Shedd Aquarium, facilitating a tour of the Oceanarium for residents at the retirement community. Schumpert and Emily Abrahamson, life enrichment coordinator of GreenFields, were piloting the device on behalf of Shedd Aquarium which is considering integrating the technology to increase accessibility.
Schumpert and Abrahamson reached out to Shedd late last year, looking for ideas on how to share the aquarium’s treasures with residents of Reflections Memory Support at GreenFields. “Our residents have visited museums around the world…many still do. But some of our residents with dementia are more comfortable staying closer to home. So, we were seeking ways to bring the beluga whales and penguins to them,” Schumpert said. “At the time that we were talking to Shedd, they were investigating robotic technology. They asked us to test the BeamPro out for them. They’ve never done anything like this before for seniors. The timing was just perfect.”
The BeamPro robot looks like an iPad on a Segway. Schumpert operated it remotely from a conference room at GreenFields with about 20 residents present. She rolled it through Shedd Aquarium where it was accompanied by two tour guides. Everything that the device “viewed” was projected real-time, onto a large screen for the Greenfields audience. The interactive tour lasted for about an hour during which time the guides shared fascinating facts about the sea life while the GreenFields audience made observations and asked questions.
“The technology that Shedd is evaluating is amazing. Residents of Reflections were able to move around the aquarium with the BeamPro robot in real time,” said Schumpert. “We were able to get up close, and were right among patrons who were actually on-site at Shedd.”
Schumpert’s original discussion with the staff at Shedd last year, led to the life enrichment team at GreenFields developing and launching its Exploring the World Our Way (eWOW) program. Through the monthly eWOW program, residents of GreenFields virtually visit amazing destinations around the world via Skype. Upcoming eWOW adventures include diving the Great Barrier Reef, visiting elephants in a Tennessee sanctuary and exploring world-class museums.
“I am constantly amazed and so proud of our life enrichment team,” said James Holbrook, executive director at GreenFields. “To say that they’re innovative and thinking outside of the box, doesn’t do their creativity justice. They are always finding and then improving ways of making adventures and exploration available to the residents.”