Can virtual reality help seniors? Study hopes to find out

POMPANO BEACH, Fla.— Terry Colli and three different residents of the John Knox Village senior neighborhood received a visit by way of laptop to the International Space Station within the kickoff to a Stanford University research on whether or not virtual reality can enhance the emotional well-being of older folks.

Donning 1-pound headsets with video and sound, the 4 might think about floating weightless with astronauts and get a 360-degree tour of the station. In different applications, residents can take virtual visits to Paris, Venice, Egypt or elsewhere across the globe; attend a automobile rally, skydive or go on a hike.

“I feel great. It is amazing. It is like you are really there,” stated Colli, 73 and a former spokesman for the Canadian embassy in Washington.

Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab will likely be working with John Knox’s 1,200 residents, who can have prepared entry to the gear underneath the supervision of workers members. The objective is to see whether or not virtual reality can enhance their temper, strengthen their relationships with workers and make them extra receptive to know-how. Other senior communities within the United States and elsewhere will quickly be added by the California college.

Residents of John Knox Village wear goggles as they participate in a virtual reality study, Tuesday, June 1, 2021, in Pompano Beach, Fla.
Residents of John Knox Village put on goggles as they take part in a virtual reality research, Tuesday, June 1, 2021, in Pompano Beach, Fla.
AP

Virtual reality works by making what the particular person sees and hears observe with what they’re doing. In a VR journey to Paris, for instance, a participant may flip to the left and see the Eiffel Tower with a musician taking part in within the foreground after which flip proper and find two folks conversing. If the participant strikes towards one, that sound will increase whereas the opposite diminishes.

“There is a fair amount of previously published research by academic labs around the world that shows VR, when administered properly, can help reduce anxiety, improve mood and reduce pain,” stated Jeremy Bailenson, the Stanford lab’s founding director. “This particular study is focused on how using VR might reduce the residents’ feelings of isolation from the outside world — all the more important after the isolation we all faced during the pandemic.”

During Tuesday’s demonstration on the suburban Fort Lauderdale neighborhood, Colli, Anne Selby, 77; Mark Levey, 64; and Hugh Root, 92, moved their heads from left to proper and up and down as they received particular person excursions of the area station.

“It really felt like you were traveling — and not alone either. In some of the video, there are people,” stated Levey, a former federal authorities employee.

Resident Bruce Voelkel wears goggles as she participates in a virtual reality study at John Knox Village, Tuesday, June 1, 2021, in Pompano Beach, Fla.
Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab has been working with John Knox’s 1,200 residents, who can have prepared entry to the gear underneath the supervision of workers members.
AP

Selby, an artist, stated that she felt a bit nauseated as she moved via the area station as a result of it was so lifelike, however that she was in a position to cope by taking deep breaths.

“Regardless of my age, I was right in the middle of it,” she stated.

Root, a retired insurance coverage salesman, was blunt: “It blows my mind.”

Chris Brickler, CEO of MyndVR, the Dallas firm that supplied the gear, stated volunteers will likely be screened to guarantee they’re mentally appropriate for utilizing virtual reality and every attendant has an abort button if the particular person turns into overwhelmed by the expertise. John Knox’s residents embody folks and {couples} who stay alone, in assisted dwelling and with full-time nursing.

Gloria Gantes adjusts the goggles of Mark Levey, a resident of John Knox Village, as he participates in a virtual reality study, Tuesday, June 1, 2021, in Pompano Beach, Fla.
Gloria Gantes adjusts the goggles of resident, Mark Levey.
AP

“As we age, we feel there is a disconnect sometimes that can happen when there is a lack of mobility,” Brickler stated. “We can’t travel as much as we want, we can’t connect with nature as much as we want, can’t have connections with animals. All sorts of connections get lost and our four walls start shrinking in. What we have tried to do is create a platform where we can bring the world back.”

Monica McAfee, John Knox’s chief advertising and marketing and innovation officer, stated the neighborhood’s directors consider VR helps residents — it’s been used on a restricted foundation there for 3 years — however Stanford’s research “will provide the empirical data.” For instance, she stated, they need to know if VR can help residents with dementia who are suffering from “sundowning” — extreme temper downswings that start at nightfall.

“Is this a way to redirect them to enjoy something?” she stated.

Northern Ohio University affiliate philosophy professor Erica Neely, who research the ethics of know-how, stated it’s essential that Stanford is getting absolutely knowledgeable consent, screening individuals and ensuring they aren’t utilizing VR alone, particularly at first. She is just not concerned within the research.

“We definitely don’t want anyone to get stuck in the experience if they become distressed and can’t figure out how to turn it off,” she stated. “The fact that there is a companion/caretaker who can go with (the participant) is utter genius. … The idea of ‘Well, we don’t necessarily have people with diminished capacities wandering around by themselves through physical space — maybe we can do the same for virtual space’ was a really good one.”

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