Many of us have spent a Christmas alone for some reason or another.
Maybe you were living or travelling overseas. Maybe you couldn’t afford flights back home. Maybe you missed your flight back home.
Whatever the reason, you would know how much spending the festive season by yourself sucks – it’s just you, a Christmas Pudding For One, and the Joni Mitchell scene in Love Actually that makes you howl with self-pitying tears every single time.
Yup, there’s not a lot in this world sadder than a Christmas spent alone. (Except for maybe a Christmas spent working in retail – that’s downright terrifying.) But imagine if you were spending Christmas alone because you were in hospital – that would be the worst.
So one Australian company have come up with a pretty awesome way to solve that problem, and we can’t get enough. #happytears.
Medibank have bucked the trend for lame Christmas advertising this year to zoom in on lonely Aussies and figuring out a way to cheer them up this festive season.
And forget colouring-in books or dodgy Santa actors, they are bringing the smiles with a seriously cool solution: virtual reality.
The health insurance giant will be delivering virtual reality headsets to long-stay hospital patients over Christmas to give them a much-needed break from the four walls of their ward, and a bit of fun to put a smile on their faces.
Because like it or lump it, illness marches on whether it's Christmas or not.
I remember when we were little and my younger brother fell off a coffee table (???) and broke his arm (???) and my parents spent most of our Christmas break at the beach up the hospital getting him a cast. I still don't understand the situation fully (like, a coffee table? Really?) but I do remember that the whole thing was a shambles. We sort of missed Christmas that year.
So imagine being stuck in a hospital bed with the full knowledge that your family is elsewhere scoffing down some prawns and getting stuck into a game of backyard cricket. No fair.
From people who are living away from family, to our elderly population, there are 2.5 million Aussies who are predicted to spend this Christmas alone. And of them, many will be in hospital - and not all of them will be lucky enough to have people visiting.
Liminal Clinical Neuroscientist and Neuropsychologist, Sami Yamin, reckons that hospital patients fall into a deep sense of loneliness over the holiday season, but are helpless to do much about it.
“Hospital patients suffer from loneliness, but feel too unwell to do something about it," says Sami.
In fact, 96% of patients interviewed said that loneliness in hospital is likely to peak at Christmas time.
"Knowing this, we’ve helped create an experience which transports patients from their current situation," says Sami, "and allows them to feel unencumbered by their physical constraints for a while."
So, working with the Medibank team, they created a unique VR experience to address some well known solutions to loneliness, including cute animals and nature scenes. They've called the program, 'Joy'.
Here's a teaser:
The responses from patients have been pretty incredible, with the oldies - many of whom will be bedridden for months on end - lighting up with amazement at the experience.
Giggling and pointing as they explore the 'virtual world' of Joy, it's impossible not to get carried away with their delight.
"Oh, there's the sunshine!" says one woman as she holds her granddaughter's hand.
"It looks like the Australian outback," says another elderly patient.
But best of all is one mum who takes off the headset with wide eyes and says incredulously - "That was amazing!"
Hnnghhh. All of the feels.
So if you know of someone spending Christmas alone - especially if they're unwell - do the right thing and extend the hand of friendship. Go visit. Give them a call. Heck, if you can get your hands on one, set them up with a cool VR headset like Medibank.
No one should have to spend Christmas alone.