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.