The increased life expectancy and growing portion of 65+ yo Australians mean more pressure on the medical industry to accommodate rising age care requirements. Dementia, which affects 1 in every 10 people over the age of 65, is currently present in 50% of all aged care residents. Carers need a new way of managing the delivery of care and quality of life for an ever increasing number of frail and high-care residents. Virtual reality can help improve the quality of life for aged care residents, in particular, those with dementia, while reduced the need for pharmacological intervention.
3 Reasons Virtual Reality Improves Aged Care
Virtual reality provides immersive audio-visual content which can be designed specifically for aged care. Early case studies have shown that this technology can dramatically improve the quality of life for people with dementia, including reducing depression and anxiety and improving relaxation and engagement levels.
1. Re-experiencing Life
Sufferers of dementia can experience social withdrawal, irritability, and disinhibition, along with other symptoms. A recent trial has found that VR can help ease the symptoms of dementia and improve behavioural outcomes including a reduction in vocalisation, wandering, and anxiety. With the VR goggles on, residents are immersed in a 360-degree computer generated world that allows them to explore the environment. This is particularly useful for triggering old memories by letting them experience places they’ve been before or to re-experience hobbies that they can no longer physically do. Each experience can be chosen on the patients’ age, place of birth, hobbies, places they’ve visited or things they have enjoyed, helping them to regain a level of familiarity in their life.
2. New Lease on Life
Residents in aged care facilities are set to receive a new lease on life with VR providing patients with the opportunity to explore a new world beyond their aged care homes and create new memories. A suite of virtual reality simulations is being developed for the aged care sector so that the elderly can experience natural and man-made wonders from the comfort and safety of their home. Consisting of a phone, virtual reality goggles and virtual reality software, this technology allows residents to leave behind the world of their facility and experience trips to far-flung locations, underwater adventures, and new experiences. Users no longer have to miss out on the wonder of travel due to their condition.
As VR becomes more affordable, its use as a therapeutic tool in aged care is increasing. Developers such as BuildVR are constantly creating relaxing and meditative tools that provide a platform for gamification and diversion therapy specifically for aged care residents and eases the need for medication to treat diseases such as dementia and anxiety. Their applications include:
- VRelax: Build VR’s own application created specifically for relaxation within Aged Care. Choose one of the three locations (beach, lake or stream) to relax in a dream environment.
- Cirque Du Soleil: Sit in the front row at the world’s greatest show! With performers surrounding you, this experience is truly immersive.
- Eden River: Float down a quiet tranquil river, sway your head left to right and navigate through this beautiful scenery.
Case studies have shown such tools to provide diversional therapy that successfully improves dementia patients’ engagement, behaviour, and quality of life.