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CMS studying how VR can reduce loneliness in assisted living facilities


Meredith Hackler


The study was funded through grants from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

ZIONSVILLE — Virtual reality (VR) headsets have become popular over the last decade. While they are widely used for entertainment, a new study aims to see if they can help fight loneliness for people staying in assisted living facilities.

Bobbie McDonald has been living at Zionsville Meadows for a little over a year due to a stroke that has affected her ability to walk.

She says it can be lonely staying at an assisted living facility. However, she says since her facility started implanting the use of VR, it has helped those feelings subside.

"When they brought it out, I was really happy,” McDonald said. “It makes us feel like we are going somewhere. We don't have to think about what we are going through on a day-to-day basis."

The goal is to find out if the technology can make people staying in the facilities feel less lonely or isolated. The study was funded through grants from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

American Senior Communities was brought the idea of implanting the use of VR by the company Mynd Immersive, who is providing the VR headset.

"We are always on the lookout for something like that,” Janean Kinzie, V.P. of Social Wellness and Enrichment at American Senior Communities, said. “Something that is not just fun technology but also has a lot of benefits."

So far, the results are positive.

Out of 660 participants, 88% said it reduced feelings of isolation, 88% improved in socialization and 91% would recommend using VR to others.

"You might feel like you are a little enclosed in a senior community, especially if you are in more of a higher skilled environment,” Robert Schafer, Activities Director at Zionsville Meadows, said. “I think this allows them to feel less that way. It expands the Horizons of where they can visit, what they can do, all of those things."

15 American Senior Communities are taking part in the study across the state. It started in Aug. and will last for three years. Once the study is done, the company will look over the final data and decide if VR will be implemented permanently.

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