Virginia Anderlini is 103 years old, and she is about to take her sixth trip into virtual reality.
In real life, she is sitting on the sofa in the bay window of her San Francisco assisted-living facility. Next to her, Dr. Sonya Kim gently tugs the straps that anchor the headset over Anderlini’s eyes.
But in the virtual world, Anderlini is on a Hawaiian beach, and it’s sunset, and she is surrounded by a glistening sea and a molten, purple-red sky. If she looks up, she sees the fronds of an enormous palm tree, and falling rainbow specks that dance in the air like the light from a disco ball.
“Hello, it’s so nice to see you again,” comes Kim’s prerecorded voice from inside the headset. “It’s such a beautiful day today, isn’t it?”