November is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. And, while there are a number of XR apps and platforms out there promising to gauge and improve user cognition, two perennial favorites of ARPost are targeted at those age groups most at risk of experiencing complications due to Alzheimers – residents of senior living communities.
Both companies, Rendever and MyndVR are also seeing technological and societal changes that might make their products even more available to the populations that they serve.
Access Rendever … at Your Local Library?
Rendever is dedicated to expanding horizons for residents of senior living communities. The company helps these facilities deploy hardware pre-baked with a growing library of content either created or curated for use by seniors. Within these experiences, residents can visit the wonders of the world, or just locations that they know from their own lives.
Like many XR companies, Rendever switched into maximum overdrive during the pandemic. Residents of many senior living communities were even less able to travel and in some cases, see loved ones. The company rolled out their EnvisionHome solution to turn the lens into the facility, letting family members who couldn’t visit experience senior living facilities remotely.
However, a novel deployment case recently rolled out in a community in North Carolina – not a senior living community, just a community. The Craven-Pamlico Regional Library operates five branches in the state and recently received state funding to make Rendever available through those locations.
“Our members are always looking to immerse themselves in new experiences and continue to learn,” Regional Director at Craven-Pamlico Regional Library, Katherine Clowers, said in a Rendever blog post detailing the deployment. “Virtual reality opens up a world of immersive possibilities for our members.”
This unique deployment makes the Rendever platform more affordable and more available to seniors outside of senior living facilities. While deployment through senior living facilities has been the Rendever game plan so far, community funding options like this one could be a huge outreach opportunity for the company in the future.
“While our platform was built to help seniors improve their mental and physical health by decreasing the effects of social isolation, our team is always looking for new ways to offer the benefits of the platform to a larger audience,” Rendever co-founder and CEO Kyle Rand said in the post.
Is Flow’s Biggest Market the Elderly?
Another VR wellness company serving seniors is also getting an outreach boost in another way: hardware improvements. MyndVR is a veteran of HTC VIVE’s Accelerator Program and has maintained a close relationship with the hardware giant – including through the development of the recently announced VIVE Flow.
“We think it’s going to be a huge breakthrough for our audience,” MyndVR CEO Chris Brickler told ARPost. Brickler mentioned the headset’s strapless design with no heavy battery, as well as its independently adjustable lenses. “This is a device that is 186 grams – it’s three times lighter than any other headset on the market that we could possibly serve up to an aging population.”
In addition to being lighter weight, the Flow comes in at the lowest price point of any VIVE device to date. It remains more expensive than other stand-alone headsets offered by companies like Oculus, but with greater ergonomics, fewer privacy concerns, and easier account management, it could be just what the doctor ordered.
More ambitious VR users might have been turned off by Flow’s more elemental controls and more limited content library. Brickler sees these elements as being perfect for the “light and meditative” content that MyndVR users regularly access.
“We have a lot of communities that will do something like ‘VR Thursdays’… That might be trips to different parts of Italy and there might be Italian food served for lunch,” said Brickler. “It becomes kind of a 4-dimensional experience.”
Some MyndVR users implement experiences daily. Many people with dementia experience “sundowning” – a period of irritability and confusion in the early afternoon or evening. Some MyndVR users have found that “light and meditative” content in advance of when a period of sundowning usually manifests can reduce those feelings of confusion and irritability.
Senior Living in VR
Usually, when media outlets – present company included – talk about VR playing a role in every aspect of your life, we really mean “work and play.” However, companies like Rendever and MyndVR are bringing it into mental health and wellness through their important work with senior living communities.