• 3 Impressively Positive Impacts of Virtual Reality on Seniors

    3 Impressively Positive Impacts of Virtual Reality on Seniors

It’s not just the young using new technologies. For years, virtual reality (VR) has been a thriving industry. Though it started as a method for video game consumption, its benefits have far exceeded that narrow purpose. In fact, VR is having some positive impacts on senior demographics.

Positive Impact of Virtual Reality on Seniors

Travel From the Comfort of Home

From national parks to international cities, VR is helping seniors go places they have never been before. Kenta Toshima, a Japanese researcher, came up with the idea of giving seniors virtual experiences. This occured while he was working in a care facility. One of Toshima’s patients mentioned to him that she wished she could visit her favorite orchard, so Toshima visited the orchard and took pictures for her. However, he realized that photos and video rarely did memories justice. He was then inspired to use a 360-degree camera to help create a wider and more accurate view of the location. From there, it was a natural jump to VR to help seniors experience a variety of places.

Kimberly Jauch, the Activities Director at Life Enriching Communities’ Twin Towers commented on her hopes for the use of technology:

“The ultimate goal is to be able to turn home videos made by families into a VR experience. One example is that I have a stepmother who lives in Florida who cannot travel due to polio disability. She wanted to come to my wedding and was very disappointed that she was incapable. My thought was – wouldn’t it have been great to set up a video camera that represented her and people could even walk up to it and say greetings as if she were there?  When the video was played back in VR format, she would feel as if she were there and being involved. For residents who would have difficulty leaving the facility, this would be a way to bring mom/dad/etc. to an important event and feel as if they were actually there. I welcome the education to be able to do this.”

Helps Seniors Feel Better About Downsizing

Moving is a huge life event, regardless of age. However, it is even more significant for seniors. One way to help seniors feel comfortable in their new housing opportunities is to provide a fully immersive VR experience. Many real estate companies and continuing care retirement communities have picked up on this and have adapted VR as part of their sales model. 

Virtual Reality Can Help with Social Isolation

Research indicates that social isolation and loneliness are worse for your health than smoking or obesity for individuals over age 50. The risk of isolation and loneliness for seniors is equivalent to smoking nearly a pack of cigarettes a day.

However, VR is changing that. According to this article, a Stanford neuroscientist stated:

“VR technology can address many of the difficult problems inherent in caring for our elders. Today, we are using VR technology to help reduce the feelings of isolation and loneliness — this is making a big difference — not just for those seniors living in care centers, but also for those who are living independently. Our seniors often feel disconnected, bored, and lonely — virtual reality technology provides a powerful way to attend to this problem.”

Expanding on this idea, Twin Towers’ own Kimberly Jauch had this to say about the new technology.

“ Not only do I feel this helps with isolation issues but you are truly engaging the resident in conversations that spark memories from their past experiences, which also promotes brain health. When they visit places of familiarity, it lights them up from the inside out!

I’ve taken someone to their old village in Italy where they grew up and listened to her talk about the different streets, how they looked when she was living there and go on to memories of her mother and the places her  grandfather would take her. I’ve had some residents who were sad to let go of the experience when the session ended!” 

This occurs because VR allows seniors in care communities to virtually travel and enjoy the world they otherwise might not be able to experience. This makes them feel more connected and less isolated which reduces feelings of loneliness.

Twin Towers is a continuing care retirement community in Cincinnati, Ohio, offering patio homes, apartments, rehab services and more. We’re focused on supporting the vibrant and active lifestyles of our residents so they can age well. For more information, contact Twin Towers online or at 513-853-2000.

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