New virtual reality headsets such as the Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR, and Google Daydream have barely scratched the surface of the technology’s potential. Even so, the applications of VR are reshaping entire industries. Today, it’s also improving the quality of life of seniors in assisted living facilities.
Seniors make up 15.6% of the entire US population. In less than 20 years, the older population is expected to outnumber the kids. That’s a first in US history.
As we age, we go through a myriad of changes, not only physically but mentally as well. For many, aging is a constant battle with memory loss, mood swings, and loss of mobility. Some go through depression, while others start to experience low self-esteem. Not only that, seniors tend to go through several of these conditions at the same time.
Thankfully, technologies like virtual reality are making life after 60 more fun and exciting. VR can help our seniors handle the stress of aging and get the most from life.
VR, Reigniting Seniors’ Passion for Life
MIT startup Rendever is improving the lives of seniors across the US through virtual reality. The company combines VR with Reminiscence Therapy to reignite the older population’s passion for life. Co-founder and CEO Kyle Rand, along with his team, designed a VR experience that takes seniors on a wild ride. Their software allows eldercare residents to revisit childhood homes or explore places they’ve never had the chance to visit.
Studies show that loneliness is associated with cognitive decline. Knowing that they could make a difference in so many lives, Rand and his team started working on a VR project. Soon, they’d find out that virtual worlds are exciting for people of all ages. During their tests, seniors would light up after a positive immersive experience. It’s quite different from their day-to-day life at assisted care facilities. Certainly, it’s nothing like Bingo or arts and crafts.
Another company that has a similar initiative is MyndVR. They, too, are bringing virtual reality to eldercare residents. MyndVR curates and creates diverse, meaningful, as well as entertaining VR content. From Paris to Africa, seniors can explore the world to their heart’s content.
“Our goal is to lift the quality of life and the spirits of the senior citizens across the country,” said Chris Brickler, co-founder and CEO of MyndVR. “We have the ability to bring in a super-engaging technology to these folks—more engaging than TV, more engaging than newspapers. This is a true immersive technology that provides joy and takes people out of the four walls of their existence.”
VR, Preventing Social Isolation
Virtual reality experiences with Rendever in senior living communities are usually group activities. Six residents will enter the virtual world at the same time. This way, no one gets isolated or feels left out. Everyone has an opportunity to share parts of their childhood with others. Together, seniors can even visit new destinations for the first time. This leads to many stimulating conversations outside of the group activity. On top of that, seniors can have immersive experiences with their family.
Aging can make the real world seem small and stifling. Now, older adults, even those who don’t have the physical ability to travel, can escape isolation to some degree using virtual reality. They can revisit their childhood home, which is a comforting experience for most. Seniors can make new friends by sharing a piece of their past or exploring new places together. With VR, older generations can reflect on and rediscover the simple joys of everyday life.