When we think about video games and cutting-edge technology, older adults aren’t always the first group of individuals to come to mind. However, virtual reality (VR) is changing the way older adults interact with technology and the world around them. According to Investopedia, VR refers to a computer-generated simulation in which a person can interact within an artificial three-dimensional environment using electronic devices. Virtual reality isn’t just for gamers. The same VR technology that’s used to overcome otherworldly creatures is being used in the senior living industry. Some of the benefits of virtual reality for seniors include helping to reduce loneliness, improving medical care, and providing adventure and entertainment.
Virtual Reality Benefits
As retirement communities continue to introduce the immersive experience of virtual reality to their residents, many find that the benefits extend farther than just a form of entertainment. Researchers agree that virtual reality has physical, mental, and social benefits for older adults. Here are some of the most common benefits of virtual reality:
Keeps the brain active
As we age, it’s normal to experience some age-related forgetfulness. However, many older adults experience abnormal brain changes that can result in significant memory loss. Researchers have suggested that VR can help improve cognitive health in older adults. A recent study from the University of Maryland reported an 8.8% improvement in accuracy when using VR to learn and retain new information. Other studies have suggested that VR can help strengthen neural connectors that help support our sensory, motor, and cognitive skills, allowing us to improve cognition.
Virtual reality is intrinsically interactive. As users explore new places and activities through VR, movement is a natural reaction. Many older adults, especially those not ambulatory, experience improved physical health due to upper torso, neck, core engagement, arm movement, and a reduced perception of physical pain.
Promotes social engagement
Virtual reality can be used individually or in a group setting. Because of VR, older adults can take virtual field trips to visit new places or experience new activities together. VR makes socializing easier and more natural by providing a shared experience to share which is critical when building and maintaining new relationships. Socialization helps to create a sense of purpose, promotes feelings of belonging, improves self-esteem, and strengthens physical and mental health.
Provides education opportunities
Virtual reality is used to change the way we learn new things. As we age, it can become harder to learn and retain new information. However, VR provides a new way to connect with the world around us and learn new things. VR allows us to disconnect from traditional learning environments and establish new forms of learning through real-life experiences and gaming technologies.
Evokes the familiar
For those who experience Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia, VR can provide a sense of comfort by evoking memories from the past and feelings of nostalgia. A VR headset can be programmed to show images from one’s past, such as images from the neighborhood you grew up in, a school you attended, or a childhood home.
Eases physical pain
In addition to providing entertainment to older adults, VR technology can be used to improve medical care. Virtual reality can ease physical pain and help manage chronic diseases by providing a distraction during medical procedures that are uncomfortable or induce anxiety.
Virtual reality can provide a fun and interactive activity for families to participate in when visiting their loved ones. VR can be particularly engaging for grandchildren and helps promote intergenerational connections.
Prevents social isolation
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly one-fourth of adults 65 and older have reported feeling socially isolated. Older adults are at an increased risk of isolation and loneliness because they are more likely to experience risk factors such as living alone, losing a family member, or developing a chronic illness. When untreated, long-term isolation can cause depression, anxiety, heart disease, and high blood pressure. However, VR technology can help combat this by allowing seniors and their families to explore together, helping bridge the physical distance between them.
Rendever Virtual Reality at Maplewood Senior Living
At Maplewood Senior Living communities, residents have the opportunity to virtually leave the four walls of their home and engage with the world in ways they never thought possible by using Rendever virtual reality technology. In groups or as individuals, residents engage in activities that help strengthen the mind and create new friendships through a shared VR experience. Rendever virtual reality offers key features that allow residents to explore the world around them from the comfort of their own homes. Here’s what our residents can expect when they put on the headsets and set out for adventure:
Activity guides. These programs are custom-built journeys led by local guides in different regions of the world. Residents can learn and explore different areas with commentary and prompts.
Search. Residents can go anywhere with virtual reality! The search feature allows residents to visit their childhood home, a new part of the world, or a favorite vacation destination.
Videos. Virtual reality offers immersive videos that allow residents to feel like they’re actually in a different part of the world, experiencing what they are seeing in real life. Residents can swim with dolphins, go skydiving, or fly in a hot air balloon from the comfort of their own homes.
Applications. Virtual reality can be used to practice deep breathing exercises and meditations. The applications feature allows residents to stay physically, mentally and socially engaged by practicing mindful guided meditations or participating in group activities and competitions.
Residents. This feature allows family members to upload pictures and videos for their loved one to explore in a three-dimensional setting. Not only can residents participate in new activities and discover new regions of the world, but now they can relive some of their favorite memories from the past.
At Maplewood Senior Living, we’re always looking for ways to keep our residents physically, mentally, and socially engaged. By using the latest technologies, like Rendever virtual reality, our residents can experience the world in new ways no matter their ability level. To learn more about these offerings or to schedule a tour, please contact us.