Virtual Reality for Aged Care
More than just entertainment.
Virtual Reality is being recognised as a powerful therapeutic tool in aged care. It’s not just the plaything of a younger generation.
Virtual Reality, or VR, creates a computer-generated experience like nothing you have previously encountered. The VR participant dons a head set to view an animated 3D image with realistic depth and colour perception. It’s as though you have entered a full depth colour film as a participant.
You can interact with the characters and shape the environment using hand held controllers and body and head movement. For young people VR games involve this level of physical interaction. These games are available to the aged as well, but for older people a range of more passive VR experiences open a whole new universe of possibilities.
The aged care industry is now catching up with the possibilities this medium offers as a means of treatment and as a way of stimulating mature minds. A research collaboration between the University of Queensland and the aged care industry is using Virtual Reality to reconceptualize aging and how we view it. “Virtual reality, new services, multi-generational communal living and other innovative accommodation models – this is the future of senior living and the revolution has already begun,” says Professor Laurie Buys, a researcher from the Institute of Future Environments, Australia.
The Australian Aging Agenda reported on a trial of 3D VR at three facilities in Australia with a total of 30 residents at different stages of dementia. The trial showed an improved quality of life and a significant number of residents reporting a pleasurable experience as a result of the 3D immersive experience. Behavioural outcomes witnessed included a reduction in vocalisations, wandering and anxiety among residents coupled with a staff preference for VR before pharmacological intervention.
In addition to therapeutic applications, VR also provides a stimulating form of extramural activity for more able residents. Virtual Reality is a new form of public entertainment. Suppliers are opening lounge style facilities in shopping centres where young and old can pay for time on VR equipment, be shown how to use it and access the range of commercially available experiences. Aged care centre managers are able to bus groups of residents to a public lounge as an outing to experience VR at a level suitable for their personal interests and physical abilities.
Peter Laurent is an enthusiast on the medium who has recently opened The VR Club Ltd in Takapuna. He is experienced in setting up and operating VR services. He offers a street level facility open to the public with easy access in the café heart of Takapuna.
He says “I am keen to offer this new and exciting entertainment medium to older people as well as my normal Gen Y and millennial customers. We can reserve the entire place for a group up to 10 and are confident they will have an energizing, safe and enjoyable experience they will talk about for a long time afterwards.”