The term virtual reality often conjures up images of immersive, heart-pounding video games and scenic experiences. However, a recent study shows that VR technology can also positively impact ageing individuals and their relationships with their caregivers. The Virtual Human Interaction Lab (VHIL) at Stanford University conducted the study. The aim of the study was to understand ageing adults’ feelings about new technologies like VR and how their caregivers feel about helping them with VR experiences.
Dr. Jeremy Bailenson, founding director of the VHIL, and Ph.D. researcher Ryan Christopher Moore led the research. 245 ageing adults and 39 caregivers across 16 senior care communities were surveyed. Mynd, a lead provider of therapeutic VR experiences, partnered with the University for the study.
Findings show that 81.5% of caregivers better enjoy interacting with ageing individuals when using Mynd Immersive, a creator of therapeutic VR experiences. 74.2% of caregivers stated that their resident’s mood improved after using Mynd. Similarly, 57.9% of residents reported feeling less isolated after using VR. Additionally, most ageing adults participating had positive feelings towards VR. This subverts the decline in trust towards new technologies that typically comes with ageing.
“Shared experiences in VR, like revisiting a senior’s hometown or travelling to a place they’ve always wanted to see, can stimulate greater communication, bridge emotional gaps, and create deeper bonds,” says CEO of Mynd Immersive Chris Brickler. “We are experiencing explosive growth of our ageing population while simultaneously seeing a significant decline in available caregivers, so it’s imperative that we create tools like Mynd that can help create a more enjoyable and fulfilling environment for both the cared and caregiver.”
Caregivers state VR benefits relationships with residents
94.9% of caregivers surveyed stated that using Mynd was moderately to extremely beneficial to their relationship with the resident. Likewise, 83% of residents felt that using Mynd improved their relationship with their caregiver.
The new VR study has already been awarded a “Top Paper Award” from the National Communication Association. It will be published in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking later this year.
“We’re entering a new era of delivering immersive, digital therapeutics,” says Joe Drygas, Head of AT&T Healthcare. “The combination of XR experiences with 5G and AI will have a tremendous impact on the many ways we can provide top-quality care for our elders and support their caregivers. The Mynd Immersive and AT&T collaboration is bringing the future of connected healthcare into sharp focus for older adults and their families.”