Seniors with smart phones and iPads. Seniors on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram. No doubt, older adults are getting hipper by the day. Could virtual reality for seniors be the next big thing?
Virtual reality for entertainment and education has been around for years. Anyone who’s “traveled” to foreign countries, “assisted” with surgery or “flown” a jet knows virtual reality is an experience like no other. Now it’s being used in senior living.
Virtual reality is reality
According to Joseph Coughlin, PhD, director of the MIT AgeLab, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, virtual reality could soon become common in retirement communities around the country. VR gives seniors who can’t travel the chance to experience the world in real time and in 3D. It’s also being tested as a therapy to help dementia patients with memory recall.
The MIT AgeLab has joined forces with Rendever, one of the leading VR companies in the country. Rendever uses the technology to help seniors travel back through time or experience new adventures. It’s the ultimate in “armchair traveling.”
VR can lead to new friendships
During group VR sessions in retirement communities, the seniors are transported back to a favorite vacation spot. Other popular “destinations” are their wedding site or even their childhood home. The sessions inevitably trigger memories and discussions, and residents often discover they share similar life experiences with others in the community. VR can open the doors to new friendships and greater understanding among neighbors.
Paris for the first time
Other seniors in the communities try VR to experience new adventures. Some see Paris for the first time or travel through space as part of a lifelong dream.
Coughlin says that older adults who play with VR “not only have fun, they report less depression. They engage in more active conversations with other residents. Virtual reality for seniors, in addition to smart phones, social media and video chat, can help reduce the potential for social isolation.”