How Virtual Reality Is Changing Rehabilitation and Preventive Healthcare for the Elderly

Occupational Therapy

With Virtual Reality (VR), Seniors are Now Able to Enjoy a More Fulfilling, Pain-free Rehab and Healthcare


The discussion on healthcare for the elderly is far-reaching and one that cannot be sidelined. The increase in life expectancy (from an average of 61 in 1935 to about 80 years today in the United States) paints a picture of healthcare structures that are unable to support this population.

An article published not long ago by The Time Magazine in November 2017 details the plight of the elderly who are at the brink of either losing all their savings to unsustainable long-term medical care or waiting upon fate to dictate their sunset days.


Sunset Years Made Brighter

The gloom and doom of sunset years are however set to change, thanks to technologies such as VR, which is revolutionizing the way the elderly access pain management, treatment, preventive and rehabilitative healthcare. The World Health Organization has emphatically outlined physical activity as an important preventive measure against disease and disability especially among the aged. VR has become an instrumental intermediary in ensuring that seniors are receiving the care they need and deserve.

It is encouraging to note that the intake of video and computer gaming has gained popularity among people aged 50 years and above, making it easier to introduce technology advancements such as VR (and its close relative Augmented Reality – AR) to this demographic.


Injecting Creative Arts into Healthcare

New York-based film director Jake Kahana has been deeply involved in research of VR usage for and among the elderly. Through interactions with seniors at DOROT, a facility for the elderly in Manhattan, Kahana concludes that seniors still need to experience everyday life encounters such as visiting a museum, going to a concert, relaxing at the ocean and so on. “They love to learn”, Kahana says, although they have limitations, physical or otherwise. “They still want new experiences”, he concludes.

That is exactly what VR comes to do for the elderly population; stimulate them with activities that jog their memory, improve their physical condition, help them with mobility and generally uplift their current condition.



The Changing Scene of VR

Initially, there were few VR projects responding to the needs of the elderly. This notwithstanding, things have drastically changed over the last couple of years.

Rendever is one of the companies making life easier for the elderly by leveraging VR. Founded in 2015, the company offers a platform to individuals and senior living communities and is focused on improving social dynamics by enabling seniors to enjoy these virtual experiences together. One of the unique features that Rendever offers is allowing families to recreate family events through VR for their loved ones who couldn’t attend. Of course, many seniors are left out of such gatherings due to mobility problems or health concerns. Recreating such occurrences allows them to stay happy and remain connected to the ones they love.

Film director Kahana worked with Rendever to create a series of 10 films, BettVR With Age, aimed at relaxing the seniors through entertainment. He says, “I know this sounds silly, but seniors are like us. They want entertainment.”


Borrowing Ideas  That Make It More Realistic

Kahana’s concept is ordinary and simplified but delivers a great impact for the elderly, especially because of the ease to deliver ordinary experiences such as a tour, a concert, or any other memorable instances that seniors can relate to.

This innovativeness will disrupt the healthcare sector and make provision of care of the elderly easier. The target population has confirmed that the technology is adding a lot of value to them. With proper investment, VR has great potential of making the sunset years more enjoyable.


Simon Wath is a digital enthusiast, multimedia journalist, content creator and communication consultant. He writes on emerging technologies and has covered topics on Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligente, Virtual Reality, Blockchain and Cryptocurrency, among others.

For more articles on how VR is changing healthcare and other industries, make sure to check the VRHealth Blog.
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