The New Frontier of Senior Care is Virtual Reality

The New Frontier of Senior Care is Virtual Reality

Written by YMedia Labs

Seniors are probably not the first group that comes to mind when people think about virtual reality. VR is thought of as high-tech and fun, and is often  associated with younger audiences.

While young people may be among the first to adopt virtual reality, researchers and startups see it as a technology that can benefit people of all ages. With advances in mobile application design, the online world is easier than ever for seniors to access. As they become accustomed to using basic technology like mobile devices, the avenue is opened for them to adapt to even more innovations, like VR hardware.

Beyond being something that is just for fun and entertainment, VR is starting to show promise as a technology that can improve the quality of life for seniors.

A Wider World with VR

One problem for many older adults is their ability to get out and experience the world. As we age, mobility can become an issue, and for some seniors, this means their world shrinks considerably. Older adults might not be able to travel as they once did, which can lead them to missing out on many experiences.

Virtual reality is proving to be a tool that can address this issue to some degree. With VR, seniors can go to exotic locations, attend sporting events or concerts, visit meaningful places from the past, or experience family events that they might otherwise miss.

Rendever is one company that is helping to bring virtual reality to seniors. With the VR experiences from Rendever, seniors can visit beautiful locations like Machu Picchu or the beaches of Maui. They can walk down the streets of their old neighborhood or visit their favorite park, and they even have access to educational experiences that can teach them about history or allow them to visit a museum.

VR Therapy for Dementia and Alzheimer’s Patients

Virtual reality can do more than open up the world for seniors that cannot travel. Research is starting to show that it can be a useful tool for the early diagnosis of diseases like dementia. Along with that, VR could potentially be used as a form of therapy that can improve the lives of patients that have these diseases.

Just the ability to experience places from the individual’s past or to go on a virtual trip to a distant location could be beneficial for people that are living with dementia. Virtual reality also has the potential to work as a tool for cognitive training. Some early research has shown that VR could help make cognitive therapy more engaging and more effective.

VR for Pain Management

Pain is another issue that can have a significant impact on the quality of life for seniors. Many seniors have to deal with chronic pain, and issues can also arise with some of the medications that may be prescribed to help seniors manage their pain.

While the neurobiological mechanisms are not clearly understood, there is a growing body of research that demonstrates the effectiveness of VR as a tool for pain management. Virtual reality has been effective in helping patients deal with pain and anxiety associated with medical procedures to treat burns, and it has also been used in a similar way to address pain and anxiety associated with cancer procedures. Beyond that, it has shown promise as a therapeutic tool for patients that live with chronic pain.

Virtual reality has great potential to improve senior care in a number of ways, but the technology has to be available for it to have an impact. As more people become aware of the benefits, it is likely that more assisted living facilities and caregivers are going to incorporate VR in strategies for senior care.


Great ways for caregivers to improve the lives of seniors

Great ways for caregivers to improve the lives of seniors

By  June Duncan of Rise Up for Caregivers

Quality of life matters at any age. If you’re a caregiver for a senior, you probably see that your loved one could benefit from improvement but you may not be sure how to help. You may even harbor concerns for your loved one’s safety. Here are some suggestions to help provide the best living environment and lifestyle for your beloved senior.

Reducing risks

Safety first: Making small modifications to your senior loved one’s home can reduce risks of falls and other safety concerns. Here are some simple things experts recommend installing to help keep your senior safe:

  • Safety bars and hand-holds in the bathroom around showers, tubs and toilets
  • Motion-activated lighting
  • A home security system
  • Peepholes in entry doors

Technology: Technology offers many ways to help seniors stay more active and independent. The professionals at LifeHack suggest using electronic heart monitors, medication reminders, and alert systems. Cell phones and applications such as Skype and FaceTime can help you keep in touch from far away.


Out and about.


Exercise: Staying active is good for people of all ages. Exercise can improve mental outlook and well-being. It also can facilitate better brain function and reduce a number of health risks. The CDC offers some great guidelines for seniors, recommending both aerobic and strength activities.

Transportation: Many seniors suffer occasional issues from medications or ailments which prevent driving, and some seniors reach the point that driving is no longer an option at all. The AARP offers these recommendations as alternatives to driving:

  • Friends and family can volunteer to drive or you could pay them a nominal fee
  • Senior organizations and faith organizations often offer transportation services
  • Public transportation, taxis, and shuttle services
  • Private car services can be hired if there is an ongoing need

A note of concern. AgingCare points out that ending the era of driving oneself is pivotal for seniors. Giving up driving can mean loss of independence, routine, and a sense of identity. Seniors sometimes keep driving in spite of hearing or vision loss, or bouts of confusion. Many seniors don’t realize there are options available and continue to drive, even when their ability is declining. In fact, fatal driving accidents are predicted to triple by the year 2030. It’s imperative to intervene if your senior shouldn’t be driving due to declining health or cognitive ability. Be persistent and creative in seeking solutions.


Togetherness. Connecting is important for mental health. According to some experts, seniors who are lonely are at a higher risk for dementia and live shorter lives. Make sure your loved one still has a social life. Here are some suggestions:

  • Stay involved with faith organizations
  • Find a hobby your senior can enjoy
  • Encourage attendance at parties and family events, such as showers, graduations, birthdays and holidays
  • Volunteer at charities and community organizations
  • Arrange for family or friends to take your senior to lunch or visit over a cup of coffee
  • Get involved with senior centers
  • Arrange transportation for activities if your senior is no longer driving


Everyone feels better if they feel needed. Giving your senior tasks can help improve their mood  and outlook. Ask for help with things still within your loved one’s scope of ability, such as folding laundry, preparing meals, running errands together, making to-do lists and shopping lists, sorting mail and organizing drawers.

Better quality of life

Take steps to improve life for your senior. Reduce risks and safety concerns. Use technological advances for support and to stay in touch. Help your loved one with getting out and about, and encourage your senior to stay involved. Through these simple measures, you can promote a better everyday life for your senior.


How many caregivers are there in America?

Approximately 43.5 million caregivers have provided unpaid care to an adult or child in the last 12 months.[National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP. (2015). Caregiving in the U.S.]

  • About 34.2 million Americans have provided unpaid care to an adult age 50 or older in the last 12 months. [National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP. (2015). Caregiving in the U.S.]
  • The majority of caregivers (82%) care for one other adult, while 15% care for 2 adults, and 3% for 3 or more adults. [National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP. (2015). Caregiving in the U.S.]
  • About 15.7 million adult family caregivers care for someone who has Alzheimer's disease or other dementia. [Alzheimer's Association. (2015). 2015 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures.]

Read more at the

According to estimates from the National Alliance for Caregiving, during the past year, 65.7 million Americans (or 29 percent of the adult U.S. adult population involving 31 percent of all U.S. households) served as family caregivers for an ill or disabled relative.

Seven in ten caregivers are non-Hispanic White, 13 percent are African-American, and 2 percent each are Hispanic or Asian-American (National Alliance for Caregiving, 2009).

Read more at:


How Can I Prevent Caregiver Burnout?

It is really easy to feel like you need to be a hero, but you are human. You are facing something really complex and challenging. It would be bizarre if it wasn't overwhelming sometimes. It would be very weird if you were happy all the time about caregiving. The first thing you need to know above all other things is that your feelings are normal. You are doing a hero's work but you are a human being and caring for yourself is so very important.

Here are some steps you can take to help prevent caregiver burnout:

  1. Talk to someone. If you can speak with a therapist. Talk to friends. Make sure you have someone that you can vent with, share your fears and open up. 
  2. It is ok to get help. It is ok to really push your other family members to step up. Again, you are human and this is hard work. 
  3. It can be hard to face the challenges that your family member is struggling with. Make sure you have an outside observer that can help you to keep perspective. 
  4. Go for a walk. Go to the gym. Get sleep. Take a bath. This is a marathon not a sprint. Taking time for yourself is going to help everyone. 
  5. Take advantage of respite care services. Respite care provides a temporary break for caregivers. 
  6. Try to limit alcohol. It is super easy to feel like you need a few drinks to unwind at the end of a long day. It would be reasonable to feel that way. Try to keep your health in check by using other ways to unwind when possible. 

Top 10 Symptoms of Caregiver Burnout

Almost everyone will become a caregiver of someone over the age of 50 at some point in your life. Most of us are not prepared for caregiving and when we embark on that path it is really easy to become susceptible to 'caregiver burnout'. It is really important to recognize the signs of burnout and to make sure you get the help you need. 

  1. Withdrawal from friends and family
  2. Loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed
  3. Feeling depressed
  4. Increase or decrease in appetite, weight, or both
  5. Disrupted sleep patterns
  6. Getting sick more often
  7. Feelings of self harm or the person for whom you are caring
  8. Emotional and physical exhaustion
  9. Excessive use of alcohol and/or sleep medications
  10. Irritability

We will be writing about ways to handle caregiver burnout!

    Caring for the Caregiver

    “After doing this for 20 + years, I've lost many residents. It never gets easier to deal with. You're human and it hurts to lose someone you cared for!

    I try to attend any funeral services for my residents.” Quote from a Certified Nursing Assistant

    One of the things we believe is that by honoring the humanity of the worker and empathizing with the difficulties of their job that we are able to inspire those workers to find empathy within themselves and for the people they work with. But in some areas, we as a society are failing to support caregivers and to be empathetic about what their needs are. 

    Caregivers are out there on the frontline. They show up to work and form deep bonds with the residents they care for. They are the ones spending all day with them. We want them to bring empathy to work but we don't pay attention to what that means for them. If they truly become empathetic and then that patient dies it can be devasating to the caregiver. Often the beds are filled almost immediately giving the caregiver very little time to grieve. Caregivers provide care but we rarely pay attention to the effects of death on their lives. Both in the institutional setting as well as in home care, bereavement support services for staff are widely lacking. In fact, it has been noted that issues around resident death and dying tend to be avoided in residential elder care settings.

    72% of long-term care staff reported experiencing at least one grief related symptom in the past month. Grief symptoms affect not only the staff members themselves but residents as well. Thirty six percent of staff members stated that the death of a resident impacted their relationships with other residents. Furthermore, complicated grief (i.e. debilitating feelings of loss that do not improve over time) among Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) has been found to be significantly related to depersonalization of residents including more emotional hardening and impersonal feelings towards residents

    Involvement in post-mortem care, in the most positive case, can be an appreciated opportunity to be there for the resident and to say goodbye. However, the less positive and more frequent scenario was an apparent lack of guidance and rituals around the post-mortem care, which left some CNAs with the sense of a rather overwhelming experience and the perception that common practices are lacking in respect and dignity for all involved. 

    Better training, preparation, guidance and support in the context of post-mortem care and body removal would be important especially early in a CNAs work experience as initial patient deaths can be formative and have an impact on future responses to death.

    10 Promising Startups Poised to Change the Way You Live, Work and Play

    10 Promising Startups Poised to Change the Way You Live, Work and Play

    The most exciting entrepreneurs today are changing the way we will live in the future.

    Together with the team at Social Media Week, Entrepreneur has picked 10 startups that are re-engineering the ways in which humans interact with the Internet. From revolutionizing the way that young professionals learn new skills to the way in which websites are built and updated, these companies are redefining what can be achieved online.  

    All 10 of these Startups to Watch will be formally presented as part of Social Media Week in New York City later this month. For a sneak peek, check out the summary highlights below.

    Read more at:

    These Are the 50 Most Promising Startups You’ve Never Heard Of


    By Ellen Huet Published: March 6, 2017 | Updated: March 9, 2017

    There are a few early clues that a startup will be successful, according to market researcher Quid: Have the company’s founders worked together before? Is the business in a hot sector, one where many other new startups are also focusing? Has it raised funding at a quick pace? Based on those criteria and others, Quid looked at more than 50,000 companies and chose 50 it deemed the most promising.

    Read more

    Heard and Overheard at ASU GSV


    By Tony Wan  Apr 19, 2016

    YOU KNOW MY METHODS, WATSON: Jeopardy proved too easy for IBM Watson. So the company has invited developers to use Watson’s API to leverage its natural language processing platform to tackle big problems. Cognotion, a startup building training and assessment tools for healthcare workers, is one of the companies doing so. TED is also tapping into Watson’s power to allow viewers to ask a question (“What is the meaning of life?”) and get a list of videos related to the query. Elise Smith, who leads IBM Waton’s education partnerships, said these queries “aren’t simply a keyword search, but takes context into consideration.) There are currently more than 100 education partners building services with Watson.

    Read More

    Edtech’s Next Significant Impact: Health and Wellness


    By Don Smithmier  May 21, 2016

    When we think about the field of educational technology, our thoughts typically remain within the traditional arenas. We think about devices in classrooms, online learning tools, supplemental platforms in higher education or corporate learning management systems. But this focus on the traditional ignores a category where edtech has the potential to make an equally massive impact: health and wellness.

    Read more at:

    Food is Medicine

    So where does food tie in? The threat of hunger affects 11% of seniors today. By 2025 that number will increase by 75% and there will be so many more seniors. We are not keeping up today with food insecurity with seniors. What are we going to do in 10 years?

    The worse the food insecurity the worse the ADLs, hospitalization rates, behavioral health, asthma, heart disease. Since the onset of the recession in 2007 until 2014, the number of seniors experiencing the threat of hunger has increased by 65%.

    For the Elderly, food insecurity is not only about lack of access:

    • lack of money
    • transportation limitations, 
    • health or mobility limitations, 
    • not the right foods for health including health-related dietary requirements
    • lack of motivation to cook or eat

    Why does this matter? 

    Food is medicine. The economic implications of ignoring the health component of food insecurity are enormous. 

    Food is medicine for older Americans experiencing chronic diseases. Food secure seniors experience a better response to medication, can maintain and gain strength faster and have overall higher chances of recovery and health maintenance. Access to proper nutrition is paramount in the prevention of various illnesses and disabilities, including diabetes, hypertension, and heart and lung problems.

    • 50% more likely to be diabetic
    • 60% more likely to suffer from depression
    • 30% more likely to have at least on ADL limitation
    • 40% more likely to report heart attacks 
    • 200% more likely to develop asthma
    • Three times more likely to skip medication or to stop taking them
    • Additionally, food insecure seniors also experience decreased resistance to infections and lengthened hospital stays, which ultimately results in higher medical costs.

    Financial impact

    The healthcare costs associated with food insecurity include hospitalization, needing to move into a nursing home, the cost of a home health aide, increased medications and need to see more doctors. 

    The complications increase when people live in areas with poor access to food in both rural and urban areas.

    A 2013 study showed that monthly health care costs were 31% lower for clients who received the home-delivered meals

    By 2040 this entire cohort will be in retirement. At least twice as many seniors as we have now. It is imperative that our society focuses its attention on supporting this generation, as it will soon become the majority of the world population. If preventative measures are not taken for the aging population the economic impact will skyrocket.

    What can we do?

    Start thinking about healthcare as an ecosystem where all the legs to the stool are supported

    Provide better tools for the family caregivers

    Work with providers and policy makers to apply an intergenerational approach when trying to meet the nutritional needs of these seniors.

    What we are doing at Cognotion

    • We need to think about the home as the center for health. Home is the place where we prevent disease. Home is the frontline of healthcare. 
    • Look at the touchpoint: caregiver or a medical provider. Caregiver becomes the eyes and ears. 
    • We are partnering with groups that have devices that allow the elderly person to either be monitored or to send info that is collected by everyone in the healthcare continuum.
    • Connecting with public health and community-based organizations to step in when we see the need evidenced in a home.  
    • Educating families on subjects like Ability which includes ways in which individuals prepare foods and combine foods into dishes, meals, and meal patterns
    • We need to broaden the provision of healthy, nutritionally-tailored food as a medical service.
    • This concept has the potential to produce significant cost savings and help people stay in their communities.

    And when communities remain intact, when the needs of multi-generations are met we have stronger communities and that affects healthcare outcomes all around. 



    Cognotion presents at Lake Nona Institute Impact Forum

    We were honored to speak at the Lake Nona Institute Impact Forum 2017 on the exciting things that are happening in healthcare and workforce management. 

    Here is a little info on the conference as described on the Lake Nona website:

    "An invitation-only event, the Lake Nona Impact Forum convenes over 250 thought leaders from business, academia, government and industry sectors who are driving creative, innovative health and wellness solutions, which move the needle on health care expenditures nationally and globally.

    Drawing nationally recognized speakers, past events have included: Alex Gorsky, CEO & Chairman, Johnson & Johnson; John Chambers, CEO, Cisco; Sanjay Gupta, MD, Chief Medical Correspondent , CNN; Arianna Huffington, Chair, President and Editor-in-Chief, Huffington Post Media Group; and The Honorable Robert McDonald, US Secretary of Veterans Affairs."



    These are the first comprehensive updates to long-term care requirements since 1991

    The New York Times put out a great article on January 27th called, Nursing Home Residents Gain New Protections. I am going to highlight a few pieces of information in the article (which you should read). 

    "The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services last fall issued a broad revision of nursing home regulations; the first batch took effect in late November, with the rest to be phased in this year and in 2019."

    The regulations strengthen residents’ control over certain decisions important to their daily lives. Things like: 

    • Residents can invite guests at any time, family or friend, as long as they are not disturbing anyone. 

    • Making it easier for residents to choose their roommate. 

    • The regulations call for expanded staff training in preventing elder abuse and in caring for patients with dementia.

    I highly recommend reading the article. It contains a ton of excellent information on the changing regulatory landscape.