Virtual Villages - The Best of Both Worlds

Posted on : May 10, 2022

Virtual Villages - The Best of Both Worlds 


You may have heard of the term ‘virtual village’ and thought what is it? Well, it’s not funny goggles in a Virtual Reality (VR) world.
Nigel Matthews gives an insight into how it works. 


For many New Zealanders the idea of what a retirement village offers sounds enticing, but the comfort, familiarity and security of remaining in your existing home can be hard to relinquish. Welcome to Virtual Villages - a concept that allows you to enjoy the services and care usually found within a retirement village while continuing to remain at home.


Although the first virtual village was founded in Boston nearly 20 years ago, it’s taken 10 years to reach Australasia and a further 5 years for a New Zealand not-for-profit organisation to trial it in Auckland (in 2018). However, one of the Big 6 village operators now plans to make it a reality across the country.


Arvida Good Friends is an initiative to keep elderly New Zealanders supported and connected, while living their own home. By eliminating the need for people to move into a village, Arvida’s intention is nurturing connections and independence for all their members. The system is designed to combine Living Well Community Centres, private home help and rideshare transport. This allows members to have both independence and social connection. (DESIGNATION) Bill McDonald explains the concept as a solution for elderly to live well wherever they are, especially the 80% of people over 65 who choose to stay in their home. Although they already have 33 retirement communities across the country, McDonald believes Arvdia Good Friends will fill a vital gap in the retirement sector.  


“In ten years’ time, I want the world to notice how well older New Zealanders live. And I hope it can be traced to Arvida’s commitment to transforming the ageing experience through person-centred care – what we call the Attitude of Living Well.” 


When summarising the key advantages, McDonald claims the framework will provide state-of-the-art facilities for their clients, offer intelligent technology alongside human service and serve members with affordable transport solutions.  


Based in Addington, the first Living Well Centre will be opened in April 2021. The facility will bring together festivals, classes, club meetings, a café, beauty salon, exercise centre, physiotherapy, allied health services and regular events. After the launch in Christchurch, Arvida has plans to roll out centres across the country over the next five years.  


During their market testing phase, Arvida quickly identified control, transparency, reliability and consistency as fundamental problems in existing home care services. Hence, as they start their service, they are focusing on three components to combat these current issues.  


First, Arvida Good Friends is powered by Lookout™ technology. Australia has used this technology for the past few years in their Home Care Package, the National Disability Insurance Scheme and remote health monitoring by the government and private insurance companies. Seeing it’s success, Arvida has actively invested in 
the development of this app for New Zealand.  


Secondly, their focus on people-centred care has driven Arvida to offer a unique subscription-based membership model. This gives members the opportunity to have full control over what services they choose and when. Bill McDonald explains the technology is an important part of this service, as it enables transparency around care and costs, including for family members. Furthermore, it matches helpers to members receiving care at home based on their needs and their personality. 
Finally, all staff will be inducted on the legal standards of home and community support care and taught the Arvida’s Attitude of Living Well philosophy. Through an online qualification system, supportive clinical oversight and Lookout™ they will ensure Arvida Good Friends helpers will provide service of the highest standards. 


Bill McDonald believes these practices will set Arvida Good Friends a part as a one-of-a-kind, positive and effective service for their members. He says, “Living Well is about having choices on how and where we live, being able to find the help we want when we need it and finding it easy to stay active and connected with friends, family and hobbies. Arvida is here to help older New Zealanders choose to live well wherever they decide to live.”


Where to from here? Arvida’s early concepts included a petting zoo and a creche within the village. Bill McDonald says “It’s something for the future!!” Personally, I’m really pleased with the direction this is heading and keen to see how virtual villages continue to develop in Aotearoa. This is an opportunity to strengthen community and to connect with those that are either on their own but not ready to shift, or need help and want to be part of something new and exciting. We will watch this space with interest.