Stanford University has kicked off a study that seeks to discover the ways in which VR for seniors might be able to improve the emotional wellbeing of older adults.
Four senior community residents of John Knox Village were given a wonderful virtual trip to the International Space Station with the help of Stanford University researchers who have been working on a study to learn how VR for seniors can be beneficial.
Jeremy Bailenson, founding director of the Stanford lab stated that a significant amount of published researches worldwide demonstrate that proper administration of VR is capable of improving moods, as well as anxiety and pain reduction. “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.” He specified.
John Knox Village houses 1,200 residents, all of which Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab plan to take in as participants to experience, under supervision, virtual reality equipment. The goal is to discover whether VR can improve the seniors’ moods, better their receptivity to technology, and improve their relationships with staff.
How did the participants like it?
According to Courthouse News, the seniors were given 1-pound headsets, complete with video and sound to help simulate floating freely amongst astronauts whilst enjoying a 360-degree ISS tour.
64-year old Levey, once a federal government worker, said that it really felt as though he was traveling with actual company.
Colli, a 73-year old former spokesman at Washington’s Canadian embassy expressed that the experience was amazingly realistic.
92-year old Root simply said that it blew his mind.
Selby, 77, mentioned that, due to how convincing it was, some nausea initially took over her as the VR experience opened, and that she took it upon herself to exercise deep breaths moving forward. Nonetheless, she felt as though she was right in the middle of it all.
CEO of MyndVR (the company that supplied the equipment), Chris Brickler confirmed that all devices provided would be used only on volunteers that have been screened and confirmed mentally suitable for VR use. Each participant is also given an abort button that can be pressed at any moment something unpleasant occurs.
Brickler highlighted that with aging comes a sense of disconnect heightened by decreased mobility; when older individuals lose opportunities to travel with ease, and connect with nature and loved ones as they please, their world seems to grow smaller, and this can take a toll on their wellbeing. Because of this observation, they have been developing a platform that can help “bring the world back” to them.
Erica Neely, associate philosophy professor at Northern Ohio University (studying technology ethics) commends Stanford for ensuring entirely informed consent from their attendants, screening them, as well as keeping them under supervision to avoid potential cases where participants may suddenly become distressed.
Though it often becomes a joke just how “left behind” older generations are getting in terms of the huge steps forward technology has taken over the years, it is great to know that there are those dedicated to making sure our senior population can get its fair share of enjoyment and peace of mind out of today’s technology. Two VR devices that have been known to work well with older users are the Oculus Go Standalone Virtual Reality Headset and Oculus Quest 2 Advanced All-In-One Virtual Reality Headset.