Before the COVID-19 pandemic spotlighted the medical issues with loneliness and
depression, senior and retirement communities were fighting these challenges daily. But now, seniors can harness virtual reality (VR) technology to explore new environments at
home while avoiding physical stress and strain.
Viva Vita is led by Founder and CEO Carleigh Berryman; their new headquarter office is located in Brickyard Cowork in Woodbridge. The company is focused on empowering its users to reach healthier and happier lives through better mental wellness and quality VR experiences. “With our all-in-one VR solutions, senior living communities of all shapes and sizes can easily leverage the power of VR for their residents, empowering them to live life to the fullest each and every day,” said Berryman.
Named as one of DC’s Inno 25 under 25 in 2020, Berryman founded Viva Vita while she
was a student at George Washington University. After watching her grandmother struggle with depression and losing interest in daily activities, Berryman wanted to create something that would help and realized VR technology had that potential.
“It seemed to me that we don’t pay enough attention and respect to our seniors. Our seniors should be enjoying this stage of their lives, their 'golden years,' and we want to help them do that. Cognitive stimulation is crucial to keeping the mind, body and spirit healthy.”
Viva Vita started off licensing content for their senior VR experiences, but now they
have a robust library of content of their own, and customers can subscribe to get new
content as it becomes available.
Viva Vita was one of the first winners in the IGNITE program, a non-dilutive grant
program offered by Prince William County Department of Economic Development
with a $25K cash grant for early-stage companies and $50K for companies with
Berryman’s team started by visiting their customers in person to offer them hour-long VR activities for groups of residents, but COVID-19 required them to configure things differently. After more than a year of conducting in-person sessions, in which Berryman and her team put VR headsets on hundreds of seniors, COVID forced an acceleration of the business's timeline for transitioning from a service to a product-based business.
“Receiving the IGNITE grant allowed us to focus on our growth goals, which include
reaching out to anyone across the country who feels trapped where they are,” said Berryman. “COVID-19 has certainly created that experience for many people, not just seniors. We are also thinking about places like dialysis centers and cancer clinics, not just retirement communities.”
Viva Vita’s customers receive their kit in the mail, and they can start using it the day it
arrives. Berryman and her team carefully consider their choices of everything from the headsets to the software. They use Pico headsets now because they are the lightest weight they could find, so the headsets don’t rest too heavily on the user’s face. In addition, their proprietary software allows a caregiver to easily control the VR experience for their senior resident.
“We offer a training session to use our Viva Vita product, but so far, hardly anyone has used it because it’s so user friendly and intuitive to figure out right out of the box,” said Berryman.
The software that drives the experience has been developed by the company and as
the technology becomes more and more sophisticated Viva Vita is looking forward to
expanding what they can offer. Currently, the Viva Vita product is not available for
individuals to purchase or subscribe. Their customers are primarily retirement
communities, but they are looking to broaden who they can reach.
Having been featured on the TODAY show to the Wall Street Journal, Berryman has her
sight set on a robust future:
“We would like to grow to become a hub of everything virtual reality for you and your
family, across devices and platforms.”