Virtual Reality Makes a Real Impact on Senior Care
See how VR is helping senior citizens combat loneliness and improve health and wellness outcomes.
With a growing population of adults age 65-plus comes a pressing need to address aging challenges, such as social isolation and loneliness, to improve health and wellness outcomes. One of the ways to address this rising need is to take advantage of opportunities afforded by new and innovative technologies like virtual reality. While the initial development of consumer VR is focused on entertainment and gaming, research and application of VR has spread to health, wellness and medical-related fields, including its use with older adults for treatments related to anxiety, cognition, rehabilitation, pain management and social engagement.
Front Porch Center for Innovation and Wellbeing
A review of the VR landscape’s current and future direction in the context of older adults, combined with the Front Porch Center for Innovation and Wellbeing’s (FPCIW's) own experiences with existing applications from the perspective of an aging-services provider, has suggested VR is an accessible and impactful solution for elder care. VR is most effective as a tool or medium to facilitate older adult engagement and human connection, rather than a panacea for solving social isolation. VR as a solution is only as effective as the conversations it helps produce. With that in mind, virtual reality is a viable and noteworthy tool to use for older adult engagement and wellness.
FPCIW initially tested Samsung Gear VR headsets by introducing them to Front Porch communities to collect feedback from a small group of residents living independently. These older adults were briefly introduced to the VR headsets (for fit and focusadjustment) as well as the motion controller that serves as a remote for selecting content. The residents were shown how to access 360-degree videos from the Samsung VR app in the Oculus Store, and then were asked to fill out a post-activity survey to share their thoughts about the experience.
The growing body of research on VR health applications continues to demonstrate the technology’s impact on clinical, health and wellness outcomes. While not exhaustive, the FPCIW has provided many examples of the benefits of VR development as applied to different needs of older adults.