Have you ever dreamed of climbing the Eiffel Tower, seeing Stonehenge, exploring the Pyramids of Giza, or take in the wonders of the Colosseum in Rome? That’s what the 70-year-young Roberta Nadel, a resident of the Manhattan’s Upper East Side Rehabilitation and Nursing Center is doing on a daily basis, thanks to the technologies that have been brought to her through virtual reality.

The Colosseum in Rome in 3D 180 Stereoscopic VR

Ms. Nadel, a former fashion professional from New York City, is able to experience the world’s most famous landmarks without having to step foot outside the comfort and security of her nursing home. Nadel loves to travel, but due to her current condition, she requires advanced care and is unable to. She’s not the only one; many of the residents that live in the same facility want to enjoy similar experiences but are unable to because of their health.

The Upper East Side Rehabilitation and Nursing Center didn’t want their residents to lose their sense of self or miss out on experiences simply because they can’t travel, which is why they started offering virtual reality (VR) sessions.

When Nadel was asked about her experience with the VR sessions, she said that it’s extremely motivational and enlightening; in fact, she said that it’s more than she hoped it would be. A very cultured person, Nadel has always had an affinity for travel and the arts. She used to enjoy travelling to various locations around the globe, exploring landmarks, and attending the theatre, ballets, and operas. However, because of her current condition, she is unable to; but, because of the VR sessions that her facility offers, she no longer has to miss out on the cultural experiences that she so loves.

The facility’s creative art specialist, Lauren Baxter, manages the VR sessions, which are offered on Tuesday mornings, or whenever residents request them. Baxter brings highly advanced and comfortable VR headsets to residents’ rooms and facilitates their transition from the facility to whatever place they want to go. Baxter noted that those who try the VR sessions for the first time are often confused in the beginning; however, she said that as they become adjusted to wearing the headset and they select a video to view, they are completely transformed.

Ms. Baxter told us that she tries not to communicate with the residents while they’re engaged in the session so they can be fully immersed in the experience and really feel as if they have been transported somewhere else.

Creating VR for Senior Citizens

The company that provides the VR technology for residents at the Upper East Side Rehabilitation and Nursing Center said that they developed the idea nearly three years ago. As Baby Boomers are reaching their Golden Years, the company wanted to offer senior citizens the opportunity to continue having new adventures, despite the fact that they may not be able to because of mobility issues or monetary restraints.

Previous VR headsets were designed for gamers and younger generations and many older adults had a difficult time using the technology, noted the CEO of the company. With the realization that VR can offer so many opportunities for seniors, the company wanted to develop an interface that would be easier for older adults to use and content that would appeal to the demographic; and that’s exactly what they did.

Scientists and a team from the company conducted several studies with a large group of participants in several states to confirm that VR was something that would appeal to seniors and something that this age group could adopt. They also wanted to find out what type of content would appeal to them. The results of their studies determined that VR was something the demographic would largely benefit from, as it could serve as a form of recreation and therapy.

The Benefits of VR for Aging Adults

According to the CEO of the VR company, he and the team of scientists that he worked with, virtual reality provides a wealth of benefits for ageing adults. It can help to ease feelings of depression, anxiety, and numerous side effects that are associated with a variety of health conditions that commonly affect people of this age. It can also simply provide a great deal of joy, rekindle a love of living, and provide enlightenment.

Because of the benefits that VR provides, and how well it has been received by ageing adults, many virtual reality companies are following suit and developing technologies that are specifically engineered for this demographic. It will be exciting to see what the future of VR will hold for senior citizens.