For the last few years, Virtual Reality (VR) has been a booming industry with tons of untapped potential. While it started as a medium primarily meant for video games, its benefits have far exceeded that original purpose. While it’s usually the youth that is associated with cutting-edge technology, we’re seeing an unlikely group of early adopters emerge—the elderly. VR is being used to better the lives of senior citizens all over the world by reducing loneliness, improving their mental health and transporting them to far-flung places without needing to leave the comfort of their home. In fact, VR can be an outlet for seniors to engage in activities they perhaps haven’t been able to do in years due to the aging process. Virtual Reality allows seniors to experience a whole new world right at their fingertips.
The experience of seniors has been so positive that Virtual reality is being introduced into nursing homes and senior care centers. But the benefits of virtual reality extend farther than many believe.
10 Great Benefits of Virtual Reality for Seniors
1. By using VR, seniors can revisit familiar places
VR combined with Google Maps, with customized reminiscence therapy tools, can give you much more than a visual of familiar places. These technologies can work together to make you actually feel like you are walking through the neighborhood you grew up in. In fact, it can allow you to take a stroll down memory lane not only by revisiting your childhood home but also your wedding location or anywhere else from your past!
Imagine the pleasure of taking a trip to the home in which you raised your family. Or going back to the school playground you enjoyed while you were a child?
2. With VR, seniors can check off boxes in their Bucket List
So you have a bucket list of all the things you still want to do in life. Swim in each of the four major oceans. Visit at least three out of the seven new Wonders of the World. Journey to the Grand Canyon. Road trip across the entire United States. Go on a week-long cruise.
With VR, you can virtually leave the four walls of your room to check off bucket list items and engage with the world in ways you never thought possible. You can visit the Egyptian Pyramids and even ride on a roller coaster, if you want to. The sky is the limit!
3. VR can ease physical pain
Do you look the other way when the doctor is sticking a needle into your arm, or doing something else that might cause you pain? Don’t feel bad for this, most of us do the same, and for a good reason! Distractions can actually alleviate the pain that we would otherwise be feeling. And with the help of Virtual Reality, you can be easily distracted. How significant would your joint pain feel if you were on a beach in Hawaii? VR can take you there.
4. VR can be a great pain relief for chronic pain relief
When getting blood drawn at the lab, many people look away from their arm, and with good reason. We can actually be distracted from physical pain. Using VR, many seniors are ‘taking a break’ from their physical discomfort by visiting a tropical island or some other place where they are completely relaxed.
5. Using VR can boost seniors’ mood and help with Anxiety and Depression
If decreased mobility limits how often you are able to leave your residence, VR can help you to change surroundings. Although you will still be sitting at home, the sights and sounds generated feel so real that your mood can respond favorably.
There are no bedrooms, bathrooms, or kitchen. Instead, it is home to a magical space that invites discovery and allows you to transport yourself to new worlds, and explore the complete immersion and interactivity that VR has to offer.
6. VR can help seniors to counteract feelings of loneliness
While virtual reality experiences are usually done alone, running a programme in a nursing home or with a group of friends, for instance, allows multiple people to use the technology at once.
Sharing your feelings and experience with those around you creates a sense of community which can counteract feelings of loneliness. Through the power of shared experience, you can even create new friends. All while providing unforgettable moments and stories that you will remember forever.
7. VR can help seniors to tackle social isolation
AARP Innovation Labs built Alcove, a VR app that focuses on family and social connection. Alcove bridges the physical distance between family members and empowers people to experience new places and things they wouldn’t otherwise be able to do because of cost, time, or mobility constraints.
The immersive ecosystem that AARP has built at human scale allows users to enter and navigate on their own, or in multiplayer with their family and friends. For example, you can traverse a home with an elderly parent living alone. At first glance, the home seems ordinary, but users soon realize it is not.
8. VR can give motivation to seniors with some kind of physical handicap
By supplementing your physical handicap with technology, the VR travel experiences can help improve your motivation for rehabilitation and improve your quality of life.
9. VR can help reduce symptoms of Dementia
An increasing number of seniors are benefiting from virtual reality. It can also help seniors dealing with Alzheimer’s disease or other types of memory loss. Some seniors are even experiencing reduced symptoms of dementia!
The thing is that while Alzheimer’s patients may struggle with short-term memory, that long-term memory is typically still very good. So, when seniors put a VR headset on and see a familiar place, their mind opens up and allows them to tell stories of their past, which can then be captured by loved ones and showcased in a book or video.
So, if you have been experiencing some signs of memory loss, why don’t give it a try?
10. With VR, seniors can see their future home before it even exists
Moving is a major life event at any age, and it’s even more significant for retirees. To help seniors feel comfortable in their housing decisions, Cloverwood Senior Living (full-service independent living community located in Pittsford, NY) is now using use virtual reality to fully immerse prospective residents in a tour of the future Terraces at Cloverwood, allowing them to envision themselves in their potential new home.
Cloverwood’s introduction of immersive VR to the next generation of retirement living is giving seniors peace of mind, eliminating fear of change, and lending a memorable and impactful experience they can’t typically be offered before construction of a physical building.
Neuroscientists have learned that the way our brain makes big decisions—like where to live—draws from emotions we’ve stored and previous experiences (both positive and negative), then cross-references that with places we’ve been. If it’s a positive experience, we move forward; if it’s negative, we retreat.
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