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Virtual Reality for Seniors: A New Way to Help People with Dementia

Virtual Reality for Seniors: A New Way to Help People with Dementia

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Imagine for a minute how it would feel to struggle with the cognitive complications of Alzheimer’s disease. The family and friends who are closest to you are now unfamiliar. The words that would roll off your tongue without a second thought are now just out of reach. In fact, the world as you once knew it has completely turned upside down, leaving you yearning for a recognizable foothold.

One of the kindnesses imparted by dementia is the long-term memories that oftentimes remain intact long after short-term memories have subsided. It is why connecting seniors with Alzheimer’s to the past is often a remarkably effective way to engage them – through music, photos, movies, and reminiscing. We can now add a high-tech tool to the possibilities for how we can help seniors mentally connect with the past that’s showing remarkable results in seniors with dementia: virtual reality.

Skip Rizzo, director for medical virtual reality at the USC Institute for Creative Technologies, has been making use of the technology to help veterans experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder. He’s now broadening his reach to virtual reality for seniors – starting with his own 89-year-old mother, whose wonderful reaction to a virtual visit to Rome confirmed just how impactful the technology can be for older adults.

Rizzo relays an encounter in which he visited a nursing home where a small group of residents were just sitting around a table in silence, until he began showing them flashcard-like pictures of objects from the past. The transformation in the atmosphere was electric, as the older adults began sharing memories with one another. With the ability of low-tech tools such as simple photographs to create joy for older adults, just imagine the opportunities available to us now with high-tech solutions like virtual reality!

The advantage of virtual reality for seniors goes further than just boosting memory and bringing enjoyment, such as:

Improved Health Care

The distraction of virtual reality is showing to be a highly effective tool for reducing physical pain for seniors. Additionally, it can be used to enhance motor skills and balance as well as improve spatial reasoning. It may even help doctors detect health conditions by watching how seniors respond in different games and activities.

Heightened Socialization

We all know that senior isolation is a contributing aspect in a number of mental health and physical issues. A recent study by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine reported that approximately one in four seniors feel socially isolated. To address this concern, AARP Innovation Labs developed an app called Alcove, in which older adults and their friends and family can enjoy virtual reality experiences together.

Would you like to learn more creative options to improve quality of life for an older adult in your life? Call our home care team at (215) 935-6321 for additional information or to learn more about LightSpring Home Care, one of the leading home healthcare agencies in Philadelphia, PA and the surrounding areas.

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