How Virtual Reality is Changing the Lives of Seniors

Virtual Reality technology is being used in Tucson, Arizona to help the elderly in a recent development of the tech. With the help of a program called Engage VR and a cordless Oculus Quest headset, retirees at two Tuscon retirement homes have been able to visit Egypt, ride roller coasters and travel to the places they used to live all from the comfort of their retirement home.

Oculus Quest

According to the Arizona Daily Star, Watermark Retirement Communities wants to eventually make the technology available to dozens of retirement villages across the US nation. The usefulness of VR doesn’t end with nostalgia, the technology can be used to allow retiree’s to meet up virtually. It can even help with issues such as cognition problems, dementia and loneliness.

According to the programs designer, a 20-year-old graduate from Rochester Institute of Technology named Grayson Barnes, most research tends to suggest that dementia patients are more themselves after the experience of virtual reality.

Virtual Reality treatment for memory related diseases is nothing new.

Research conducted on psychiatric patients suffering from memory related diseases found that exposure to VR helped the subjects recall old memories. It did this by offering new stimuli that was previously unattainable to them. This also helped the caregivers gain more information about the patients and improved their social interactions.

The research was led by Dr. Chee Siang (Jim) Ang who is a senior lecturer from the university of Kent. It used virtual reality devices on 8 patients at the hospital. The average age of the patients was 69 years of age and they all suffered from dementia and related diseases.

A few weeks after the VR session in an art session, one patient thought fondly back to the experience and then drew a coastal picture. Ang has previously tested virtual reality technology on patients with memory diseases in day and residential care environments. He believes that additional research will help shed light on making VR more effective.

As virtual reality technology becomes more advanced and simulations are easier to develop, help could become specialised to each patient. This will allow more personalised experiences such as being able to explore their old home or favourite spot.

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