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Early study results show virtual reality can bolster caregivers, LTC seniors relationship

McKnights Senior Living

Aaron Dorman


Over the past few years, it’s been established that seniors with dementia can benefit from the use of virtual reality programs, either for therapy or entertainment purposes.

Now, a new study shows that VR tech also strengthens the relationship between seniors and caregivers. 

“They [seniors] might remember they did a trip along Route 66 years and years ago,” Chris Bickler, CEO of Mynd Immersive — formerly MyndVR — explained Wednesday. “Now picture a VR series where a caregiver can ‘drive’ the senior along that road. They can unlock a flood of old memories. It makes for happy seniors and a happy caregiver.”

The ability for caregivers to not only embrace new technology, but to feel like they are making a difference in the lives of senior residents, could be valuable for long-term care communities, where there is an ongoing concern about having enough staff to meet residents’ needs. 

An overwhelming majority, 95%, of senior living caregivers, said they felt using the VR was “moderately to extremely beneficial” for building a relationship with residents, according to the study results, which included 245 older adults and 39 caregivers across 16 different senior living communities.

While caregivers don’t always put on the glasses or headset, those who use Mynd Immersive’s tech are given a tablet, with which they can control a VR experience for residents or “just go along for the ride,” Bickler explained, noting that they can “see everything the senior sees.”

The first phase of the study used VR glasses from HTC Vive and took place at Stanford University’s Human Interaction Lab.

The plan is to conduct a multiyear research effort, Bickler told McKnight’s Long-Term Care News. The study also found that 81% of caregivers preferred using VR with their residents, compared to any other activities.

The research is a collaboration between Stanford, Mynd Immersive and AT&T 5G Healthcare. 

Many companies are now taking advantage of VR’s expansion, not only as a tool for entertainment, but for therapy and even caregiver training, McKnight’s has reported over the past few months.

The physical technology itself is shifting, Bickler explained, moving from headsets to more comfortable glasses, which in turn allows for VR companies to experiment with blending in “augmented reality” tools.

“Imagine a small yoga room or gym [at a senior living residence],” Bickler said. “It’s uninspiring in most cases. People aren’t motivated to come into that little room. What we’ve done is knocked the four walls off that room. It can be a kitchen or a dining room or grocery store or ATM machine. We’ll bring all these things in and get seniors back on their feet.”

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