Virtual reality (VR) has been around for a while, but until recently, this technology was really only associated with gaming younger generations. However, thanks to the advancements in technology, VR isn’t just for gamers or millennials anymore; it’s become extremely popular among senior citizens.
All across the country, nursing homes, assistive living facilities, and senior care centers are offering virtual reality programs for their residents. This technology provides a source of entertainment; but more importantly, it can be highly therapeutic and have a profound impact on the physical, mental, and social well-being of ageing adults.
The Benefits of Virtual Reality for Senior Citizens
Ageing affects every part of the body, including cognitive function. Reduced mobility, a problem that many older adults experience, and various health complications that affect the elderly, can speed up cognitive decline. To offset the negative effects that ageing can have on memory, critical thinking skills, and reasoning, the brain needs to be kept active on a regular basis.
In an effort to provide the mental stimulation that seniors need, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and senior care centers offer a number of activities for their residents. Social gatherings, game nights, outings, movie screenings, and a variety of other events are a regular part of the happenings that occur at these facilities.
In recent years, centers for the elderly are offering another activity to their lineup: virtual reality.
Through virtual reality, senior citizens are able to play games, visit cultural landmarks, see plays, attend the ballet, tour museums, and even take interactive walks through parks, drive-through safaris, and or even go sky diving! The virtual “activities” provide seniors with the mental stimulation they require without having to move about, something that can be challenging for older adults who suffer from mobility issues.
Virtual reality literally allows those who have reached their Golden Years the opportunity to exercise their brains, travel the globe, and take walks down memory lane without having to leave the safety and comfort of their nursing home or retirement facility.
The mental stimulation and experiences that VR provides benefits seniors in a myriad of ways; according to researchers, some of the most notable benefits include:
- Improved cognitive function. Because VR provides mental stimulation, it offers the “exercise” the brain needs in order to stay active and alert. This, in turn, improves cognitive functioning. Numerous studies have found that the symptoms of dementia patients significantly improve when they interact with virtual reality. It not only improves their memory, but it also sharpens their critical thinking and reasoning skills. Many studies have concluded that dementia patients experience an improvement in their decision making and their ability to recall information.
- Enhanced socialization. While seniors who reside in nursing homes and other similar facilities live within close proximity to others, making friends and socializing can be difficult. VR can be used as a tool to encourage socialization. For example, multiple residents can interact with the same movie or participate in the same events and share their experiences with one another, thus promoting socialization among residents. For seniors, socialization offers a renewed sense of purpose and can reignite their excitement for life.
- Reduced depression. Many elderly adults experience feelings of depression. Despite the fact that they may live in close quarters with other residents in assisted living facilities, their ailments and inability to do the things that they once enjoyed can greatly affect their sense of well-being. Various studies have determined that seniors experience a marked improvement in their overall happiness when they interact with VR, and feelings of happiness reduce feelings of depression.
- A therapeutic effect. In a study that examined the effects that VR had on a group of senior citizens, more than 97 percent of the participants said that they felt more relaxed as a result of their use of the technology, 98 percent of the participants said that they felt more positive, and 94 percent said that they felt less worried. All of these effects combined can be very therapeutic; not only can they help to improve feelings of happiness, but they can also reduce symptoms that are associated with various health conditions that commonly affect older adults.
The Bottom Line
Virtual reality has been proven to be a positive experience for senior citizens. Given all of the advantages that this technology offers, looking toward the future, it’s exciting to think about how virtual reality will continue to improve the lives of ageing adults.