Seniors & Virtual Reality - What The Future Has In Store

You’ve seen the goggles and now you’re curious. What does the future really hold for seniors and Virtual Reality? Let's consider some of the amazing possibilities available.
Senior woman wearing virtual reality goggles at home

Virtual Reality (VR) has been coming up on everyone’s mind. It holds tremendous potential to shape our future. And, as many cutting-edge technology companies are saying, the future is not so far away.

Have you been seeing those funny-looking goggles? In a movie. On your grandchildren, while playing games. Perhaps, in use at a senior center.

Virtual Reality is not just the stuff of science fiction. VR is at the source of many exciting developments that could alter our ideas of what’s possible.

VR is also called ‘immersive technology’ because it enables people to immerse themselves in the experience they’re seeing. Many people believe it is a game-changer in health, pain management, and wellness.

Many tech companies, entrepreneurs, and medical researchers are exploring ways to use VR for improve quality of life for seniors. The list is long and the possibilities are impressive.

Reducing Loneliness

It’s no news that isolation and loneliness are a big problem for many seniors. As we age, people we love move away, pass on, or are involved in their own lives.

Using VR experiences in groups provides a way for community residents to have new experiences—and build a sense of community.

Japanese researcher, Kenta Toshima, is experimenting with virtual reality programs in nursing homes and getting rave reviews. Toshima is using VR for groups, enabling individuals to have shared experiences. In reviews, participants confirm that VR helps with daily engagement, relieving anxiety, and creating a sense of calm.

Envision A Future Home

Many people dread leaving their family home for a senior living facility. One way to ease concerns about an upcoming move, is to provide immersive experiences for prospective residents.

Arnold Imaging is partnering with senior living facilities such as Cloverwood Senior Living to create virtual reality tours. These virtual tours help future residents get comfortable with the layout of their potential new home.

By having the experience of ‘walking through’ the facility, people can make their decision with a greater sense of peace-of-mind. Instead of having to envision the place with a blueprint, they can literally have the sensation of ‘walking into their new home’.

A senior man in a wheel experiences flying in virtual reality

Take A Wild Trip

Whether you’re taking the trip of a lifetime, or visiting an imaginary reality—VR experiences are the next-best thing to being there.

Using neuroscience and VR technology, researchers are exploring ways to engage seniors, from the comfort of their home or nursing facility.

Imagine being able to go for a roller coaster ride, visit the Eiffel Tower, or walk through the fields of your childhood.

These travel journeys are being developed to create highly engaging, entertaining experiences. The benefits go far beyond distraction and fun. VR technology is being explored as a way to improve memory, strengthen cognition, and diminish loneliness.

Find Pain Relief

Recent studies with VR experiences are confirming the high value of virtual reality in pain management. The studies show that VR not only helps to distract the mind from pain, but also blocks pain signals from reaching the brain. This offers a powerful alternative for drug-free pain management.

Studies support earlier findings, that this can be a non-addictive, drug-free treatment to assist people with a variety of pain conditions. Earlier studies from 2017 show patients using VR report a 24% drop in pain scores.

VR is considered as a potent alternative to opiates and other painkillers. It is seen as a viable technology for pain relief, pain management and rehabilitation. VR is targeted as highly valuable for physical therapy, cognitive rehab, and pain management.

Reduce Social Isolation

As you’ve probably heard, prolonged isolation isn’t just a drag. It’s also really bad for your health. Studies confirm that loneliness can be worse for your health than being overweight or smoking. The comparison is that if you’re over 50, extended isolation can do the damage of smoking 15 cigarettes per day. No doubt, you gave up smoking a long time ago. Yet, loneliness is an ongoing epidemic.

This is where VR comes in. AARP Innovation Labs built a VR app called Alcove. This app bridges physical distance between family members and fosters social interaction. The app is built on a human scale and enables people to enter and navigate a shared space, with family and friends.

Alcove is available on Oculus Go as a beta version. It is expected to grow with more content and immersive experiences. Focusing on health, wellness, social engagement, users can explore new worlds together, in fresh new ways.

Alcove was developed in partnership with Rendever, a VR platform that provides solutions for seniors.

A woman in assisted living uses virtual reality goggles to help exercise and reduce pain

Transforming Senior Living

Rendever provides ready-to-go systems to nursing homes and senior facilities. These VR systems are designed to reduce loneliness and isolation, by providing experiences that engage, enliven, and entertain users.

The programs help users to relive key memories, childhood homes, romantic locations and more. Using these tools, users can take a walk down memory lane and experience the joys of their life.

The VR programs also help users to take trips, and virtually leave the confines of their building. A hot air balloon ride. A trip down the Nile. A view from a mountain peak. With colorful trips, there are a lot of engaging and fun things to discuss and share for days.

As a tool for reducing social isolation, these VR experiences create a shared adventure. This offers ways to share stories and deepen dialogue with friends, residents and staff.

Assistance Club Summary

With all these benefits clearly in view, putting on a pair of VR goggles seems well worth it. As we look forward, we can expect more and more innovations that improve quality of life, address real issues, and promote engagement. With VR, we can see the way forward is rich with innovation for healthy, rewarding living.