Aug 18 2017

How Virtual Reality Improves Senior Living

Immersive technology helps to combat isolation, loneliness and pain management for seniors.

Senior living communities present residents with a variety of options geared toward staying active and building new relationships. But isolation and loneliness remain significant issues. Unfortunately, many residents don’t get to see family as often as they’d like or travel as much as they used to, if they ever had the opportunity to do so.

Advances in virtual reality technology represent a potential solution, one steadily making headway in the senior care industry. Such innovation also helps seniors and others manage pain, reducing opioid dependence, a growing epidemic on its way to being declared a national emergency by the White House.

Going forward, I believe there is a tremendous opportunity for VR to change senior experiences for the better.

Providing an Immersive VR Experience for Seniors

Consider the success achieved by VR companies like Rendever Health and AppliedVR, both of which have partnered with CDW to roll out the technology in various settings.

At a Brookdale Senior Living community in Boston, Rendever enabled residents to virtually visit locations all around the world using Samsung Gear VR headsets. The test deployment elicited so much positive feedback that Brookdale is considering rolling out a larger pilot.

Meanwhile, AppliedVR, which also deploys Samsung Gear headsets, is creating a library of VR content with a focus on pain management. The technology already has proven effective in pilot programs conducted at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. In one study, patient pain dropped 24 percent during VR sessions showing therapy content such as helicopter rides over scenic landscapes. As hospitalization rates related to opioid abuse continue to rise among older adults, such pain management alternatives will only grow in importance.

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Making Memories with Virtual Reality

Other organizations, like Morning Pointe of Columbia in Columbia, Tenn., have rolled out VR with an emphasis on memory care. To truly enhance engagement and immersion, Morning Pointe plans activities around VR content. For example, if there is a scheduled “trip” to Italy, the community will also prepare Italian cuisine to bring the experience to life, Executive Director Tyler Sneed said in a recent interview.

In addition to virtual vacations and pain management, VR holds the potential to allow seniors to view special events for which participation might otherwise be difficult. Rendever creates virtual experiences for individuals using recordings of special family events like a wedding in a remote location or a graduation. Such application of VR technology not only stimulates the minds of older adults, it helps to stem loneliness.

Residents in senior living communities don’t have to feel like they’re missing out on life. VR technology represents a promising tool to ensure that doesn’t happen.

This article is part of HealthTech’s MonITor blog series. Please join the discussion on Twitter by using #WellnessIT.


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