While seniors probably aren’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think about virtual reality, research is determining that virtual reality is an impactful tool for helping seniors manage common conditions like memory loss, chronic pain and PTSD
Virtual reality is changing the game for the way seniors are cared for around the world. Keep reading to find out how, or check out this infographic for a snapshot view.
Virtual Reality and Dementia Therapy
Anxiety and agitation are common symptoms of conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s. In fact, delusions, hallucinations, irritability and dysphoria are, unfortunately, part of daily life for seniors living with these memory loss diseases.
Normal treatment for these symptoms has always involved removing stressful stimulants from the senior’s environment and working to create a more relaxing space that offers the senior a sense of security and peacefulness.
Virtual reality is being used to take this treatment to the next level for those living with dementia. Because of its immersive nature, virtual reality offers therapists and doctors a unique way to help seniors with dementia relax. “Placing” seniors into a familiar or peaceful setting like a forest or beach helps to soothe the mind and reduce the feeling of agitation.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, researchers have found that exhilarating, adventurous experiences can also be beneficial for those living with dementia. In the U.K., the CAREN program is being used to put users through exciting virtual games like skiing, high-speed car racing and even swimming with sharks. The program is showing long-term benefits for balance, cognition and spatial awareness in users with dementia.
Virtual Reality and Veteran Care
Exposure therapy has long been used as a way to help people overcome phobias and avoidance behaviors. Exposure therapy involves subjecting the individual to their fear in a controlled, safe environment. While this works well for fear-based conditions like arachnophobia, it is difficult to recreate the same concept for veterans with PTSD.
Because a veteran’s PTSD is often caused by a traumatic war-related experience, traditional exposure therapy simply isn’t possible. However, virtual reality is allowing therapists and doctors a chance to try the method with veterans –– and they’re seeing great success.
Using a standard virtual reality headset, veterans are able to safely confront fear-inducing situations, helping them manage and reduce symptoms of PTSD while significantly improving their quality of life.