You may have seen the headsets. They wrap around the eyes like goggles. And, once inside them, the senior travels to remote parts of the world, sees a concert, or relives a beloved memory.
Virtual reality has come to seniors. A few devices, like Facebook’s Oculus Quest 2, are already on the market. The technology for virtual reality comes out of the gaming industry. Instead of just seeing the game world on a flat screen, virtual reality allows users to be in a three-dimensional version of that world. Some people call these headsets “smart glasses.”
So far, the technology is a little pricey. Amazon sells Oculus Quest bundles for around $700. But this device makes an amazing gift for seniors who want to experience daring adventures from the comfort of their own homes.
What can seniors see and do with VR?
Using Facebook’s virtual reality device, seniors can climb Mount Everest, rocket down snowy mountains as if on skis, take nature hikes, visit the ocean deeps, teeter above skyscrapers, and have other adventures.
Neurologists approve the use of VR for seniors on grounds that VR engages seniors mentally. Because this technology is interactive, it improves mental alertness and sense of well being. It can also improve the way a senior’s memory works. At least one study suggests VR may be useful for slowing mental decline in Alzheimer’s patients.
Is it really any better than watching a television? Yes, several studies have compared groups of seniors who watched the same content on television to those who saw the content via VR. The VR experience, probably because it is so immersive, won in every study, improving mood and self esteem.
In some cases, VR can be designed to let a senior revisit a beloved childhood haunt, like the street where she grew up. In other cases, the senior can use VR to ride a roller coaster or visit the pyramids of Egypt.
Such experiences combat the sense of isolation and sadness that often endangers people over 65. Many seniors go whole days without positive social interactions, and that takes a toll on mental health, putting them at risk of developing dementia and heart disease.
Home care can help you implement VR.
Your home care professional can help you introduce your senior to the world of VR. Home care aides will show elderly clients how to strap on the headset and how to load games and virtual experiences that they enjoy. In many cases, you or their home care aide can engage your senior in conversation about what she saw and experienced through VR.
In conclusion, virtual reality is no longer just a device that appears on Star Trek and in science fiction novels. It exists in the present, and many seniors have already benefited from using it. While it may be cost prohibitive for some families, VR devices are great additions to the senior arsenal, especially for seniors who are socially isolated and/or in danger of cognitive decline.