How is virtual reality going to improve senior care?

Q:

How is virtual reality going to improve senior care, knowing how much the elderly tend to dislike video games and new technology in general?

A:

It is well known how reticent older people can be to accept any new technology, especially when it is associated with gaming in general. However, the older a person gets, the harder it becomes to get out, move, interact and experience the world. With older age, hearing and vision can be impaired, and mobility can also be severely limited, shrinking the world around the senior day after day. Missing all those experiences might cause isolation, which may lower the mood of the individual, or even be the cause of serious psychological issues such as depression and anxiety.

Virtual reality (VR) has already been used successfully as an exceptionally useful tool that helps older people retrieve their connection with the real world. VR goggles can be used to let seniors "travel" to exotic locations or places that they loved and are nostalgic about, attend concerts or simply meet their relatives during family events they would otherwise miss. The most advanced headphones can be adjusted to each user's preferred volume and can be worn over hearing aids, and help those who suffer from hearing impairment to once again appreciate the music that they loved so much.

VR, however, can do more for seniors than simply provide them with some well-earned fun. According to recent news, some VR games have already been used to help doctors diagnose dementia as early as possible. But even the simple fact that VR can help a senior enjoy his or her time playing around can help stave off depression, which is a known risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and cardiovascular diseases. Boosting a senior's mood and stimulating their brain activity helps in promoting their overall mental and physical health, reducing the health care costs at the same time.

VR can be used during cognitive therapy and training, or as a tool for rehabilitation after, say, a stroke. It can also help those who must deal with chronic pain, or just to provide relief for those who must endure the pain and anxiety associated with medical procedures or cancer treatment. Bottom line, in the near future, VR is going to become a great addition to any nursing home to improve the quality of life of its residents.

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Written by Claudio Buttice
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Dr. Claudio Butticè, Pharm.D., is a former clinical and hospital pharmacist who worked for several large public hospitals in Southern Italy, as well as for the humanitarian NGO Emergency.

He is an accomplished medicine and technology writer who wrote as an author in several encyclopedias, including The SAGE Encyclopedia of Cancer and Society (2015), The SAGE Encyclopedia of World Poverty (2015), and ABC-CLIO Encyclopedia of Science and Technology (in press). He’s also the author of research papers as well as other sociology and anthropology reference textbooks.

An expert freelance journalist, Dr. Butticè wrote for many online newspapers such as The Ring Of Fire, Digital Journal and Business Insider. During his career he also worked as a medical consultant and advisor for many international companies around the world, wrote and designed Continuing Medical Education (CME) courses and taught content writing techniques through webinars.

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