VR Enhances Quality of Life
VR Enhances Seniors’ Quality of Life During, Beyond Pandemic
The fear of any senior citizen who goes to live in a retirement community or a nursing home is isolation. Leaving behind the home you know and the neighborhood you are comfortable in is difficult at any age, and usually worse when you’re older. Not being able to hop in your car and drive to visit your family at the drop of the hat can be as debilitating as any physical illness. Those feelings were ramped up significantly by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 that saw massive shutdowns and mandatory isolation in so many countries across the world. Heart-breaking images of relatives having to visit their senior citizen relatives from outside closed windows ran rampant across the Internet. But things were handled differently at Parker Life at Landing Lane, a retirement community in New Brunswick, New Jersey. To help its residents deal with the misery of social isolation during the shutdown, the management opted to provide them with the next best thing to being there: virtual reality (VR).
As of April 1, 2021, 95% of deaths from COVID-19 in the United States were people aged 50 or older, and 80% of them were people aged 65 or older, the time most people head for a retirement or assisted-living community. The combination of fear and loneliness can have a toxic effect on senior citizens, and cause them to suffer depression or physical ailments. Rendever is a VR platform specifically designed for seniors that is used to help people practice reminiscence therapy, reconnect with friends and family members in other locations, and share group experiences inside their retirement communities that spark cognitive abilities, positive emotions, and group discussions. The New Jersey retirement home used the VR capabilities to help a patient on hospice care revisit the Grand Canyon, one of her favorite locations from childhood, using VR. Even when there is no global pandemic, senior citizen retirement communities and assisted-living facilities have begun using VR technology to help patients with cognitive decline, long-term illnesses, or incurable conditions the ability to reminisce about favorite places, events, and memories from their younger days without having to raise a finger or take a trip.
Noticeable Health Improvements
Social isolation is a silent killer among the elderly. Research shows it increases the risk of suffering a stroke by 32%, makes someone 29% more likely to suffer from heart disease, and also increases the risk that they will suffer from dementia later in life. The health impacts for some people are the equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes (3/4ths of a pack) per day. Rendever even recognizes that some senior citizens who do not have a lot of experience with newer technology can be uncomfortable with the sort of headsets that make VR possible, so they offer services through everyday tablets as a “starter set” for the hardware before graduating patients up to the goggles.
We often think of the VR world as the domain of the young, people who have grown up on digital technology and are already living with one foot in the world of online reality. Innovatives like VR for senior citizens shows just how much untapped potential for immersive technology is out there.