VR may soon be used as a means to improve cognitive wellness in senior citizens, following a new partnership between a Texas-based senior living management and consulting firm Civitas Senior Living and MyndVR. The two companies have now reportedly joined in an effort to study how the use of VR, along with specially curated content, can benefit users over the age of 55. In particular, the effort will center around helping users feel happier and healthier, as well as providing a virtual freedom to augment or supplement what time and age have taken away. As of this writing, the project is only taking place at a single senior care facility in Midlothian, Texas, with participation from the residents of Midtowne Assisted Living and Memory Care. According to Civitas CEO Wayne Powell, the current goal is to provide enrichment and a more enjoyable experience for those in assisted living. If everything goes smoothly, it shouldn't be too surprising to see an expansion of this type of use for the technology.
As to what those experiences are, the companies are utilizing smartphone-powered VR. For those who may not be aware, those are headsets such as Samsung's Oculus-powered Gear VR and generally makes the technology much more affordable. That could also change with the incoming wave of standalone headsets which are cheaper but don't require a smartphone embedded in the headset itself. In the meantime, the headsets are coupled with headphones to provide a more immersive experience. The content itself is comprised of offerings from DiscoverVR, National Geographic, and The Wall Street Journal, providing for a wide variety of experiences and 360-degree videos. For example, the wearer might virtually visit a national landmark or international point of interest. Conversely, more exciting experiences such as white water rafting or concerts are also available, in addition to content the companies say is designed internally. The latter of those are said to be created by MyndVR itself with a more deliberate focus on enhancing the lives of seniors citizens.
Whether or not the program is ultimately successful, this is not at all the first time that VR technologies have been used to address concerns in the healthcare industry. In this case, the companies are choosing to focus efforts on enhancing the standard of living for people who might otherwise have no further experiences or interaction with the world outside of their living areas. In other cases, the technology has been used to help users better understand the living experiences of individuals who are autistic or to help the wearer overcome fears. However, these are really only a couple of many examples which, at very least, show that there are still plenty of ways in which the use of VR can be expanded to make life better.