The future of aged care: how VR helps the elderly stay healthy

The longer we live, the more losses we suffer. The changes coming in later life often lead to depression. When facing major challenges, we need to focus on the things we can control. A key for healthy ageing is the ability to always find new meaning and joy in life and this is where VR comes in.

I want to ride it where I like

Aalborg University in Denmark recently launched a unique research project in which they use virtual reality to transform exercise from a bore to a “digital experience” for the elderly.

The participants ride a bike while fitted with VR headsets to bring the digital illusion of pedalling to life. The greatest challenge seemed to be keeping the seniors interested and making the exercise enjoyable since options are limited and monotonous. However, VR appears to combat these struggles and get the elderly moving.

End treadmill boredom

According to a study published in The Lancet, taking into consideration of both the physical and cognitive aspects of walking, a combination of treadmill training and virtual reality might help prevent falls in an advanced age. The workout aims to improve safe walking for the elderly or people with disorders affecting motor skills such as Parkinson’s disease.

The simulation game was designed to reduce the risk of falls by including real life challenges such as avoiding and stepping over obstacles like puddles or hurdles, and navigating pathways.

The VR component of the training was proved to be beneficial by improving balance, stepping performance and cognitive function. 

Help them remember and communicate

The Australian interactive media agency Build VR developed a project called Solis VR to help elderly residents of care facilities explore the world in a way they normally couldn’t.

The experience is totally hands-free and it takes the elderly to places long thought out of reach. The system consists of a Samsung S7, Samsung Gear VR and their custom designed Solis program. Currently we can choose from scuba diving, canoeing, visiting the Arctic, Bali or Canada.

There’s an option for the caregiver to see what the patient is seeing through a tablet in real time – which has been successful in opening up communication between residents and those around them.

The elderly often lose social connections due to physical or psychological issues but the use of VR could really open up these patients in a way that we haven’t been seeing with medication and therapy. We hope that VR for the elderly will become a great alternative to filling grandma up with drugs. This is a whole new frontier in the use for VR and also in the world of aged care.

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