Updated: Jul 18
Virtual Reality - VR (noun) is described as:
“the computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional image or environment that can be interacted with in a seemingly real or physical way by a person using special electronic equipment, such as a helmet with a screen inside or gloves fitted with sensors”.
My own version of Virtual Reality began as a child with the Classic View Master 3D where we inserted a round reel holding individual films for all types of themes - Disney, Animals, Cars, toys, plants, flowers, games, etc. and held the boxlike goggle viewfinder to our eyes.
The concept for virtual reality technology dates back to the 1800s with stereoscopes with the 2 dimensions viewed side by side. VR evolved over the next century in cinematography in the 1900s and later with the first head mounted virtual reality gear in the 60s.
Today, VR technology has become an integral part of living for seniors who may be confined to their place of residences because of mental or physical limitations. Augmented realities, reminiscence therapy, and VR for the memory impaired are making a difference in the lives of dependent older adults. Participants get to visit places previously lived in “younger lives”, or check off their “bucket list” for places they always wanted to visit and have the capability to share the experience with loved ones, friends, and peers. In senior communities for independent living, assisted living, or nursing care facilities VR is staving off social isolation and depression with the incredible experiences, adventures, journeys, training, trivia, and games.
Older adults diagnosed with dementia or experiencing some cognitive decline now have the capability to paint, draw, or sculpt with the VR gear. Those with Parkinson's now can slip on the head gear and hike or climb Mt. Everest. There are no barriers to the VR experience, except the fact that it may be overwhelming with the “totally immersed” scenes (you are actually walking onto the set where the buildings and surroundings look and feel real). Visiting exotic places or sailing on a catamaran on the ocean or attending a grandchild’s graduation or wedding via the uploaded videos and pictures has brought on more smiles. The joy and fulfillment these experiences bring has only enhanced the quality of life for seniors.
Just like all technology, “access” is key. Residents in “high end” senior living communities or Veterans Homes are more likely to have access with staff members on hand to monitor and facilitate the VR experience. The bigger question is: If 50% of seniors experience some form of depression or loneliness, what will it take to bring the VR experience to the majority of seniors outside these senior living communities to help increase happiness?
A quick online search shows links to a number of VR equipment. Little is known about having the same VR experiences as toted by “senior living communities” that have contracts with the technology companies that develop and market these products and platforms.
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