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Can virtual reality help the emotional wellbeing of older people?

Virtual reality being tested to help older people

A new study has been launched to see if virtual reality (VR) can help and improve the emotional wellbeing of older people. Stanford University are running the research project alongside a senior community in the USA and it will be transferring older people via a computer to destinations all over the world.

Older people can often suffer from mobility problems, which means they need to use aids around their home such as stair lifts, but poor emotional wellbeing and a feeling of isolation is also something that many older adults suffer from.

This new study is hoping to find that VR can help improve an older person’s emotional wellbeing. The first participants in the study wore headsets with video and sound and could be transported to places such as the International Space Station where they were able to get a 360-degree tour of the station.

In other programmes residents can virtually visit the likes of Paris, Venice, Egypt and other places around the globe or go skydiving, go on a hike and attend a car rally.

Stanford's Virtual Human Interaction Lab will be working with around 1,200 residents living in the senior community in the US and will be looking to see whether VR can improve their mood, strengthen their relationships with staff and make them more receptive to technology.

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In an article in the Independent, Jeremy Bailenson, who is the Stanford lab’s founding director, said: “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.

“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.”

The research into virtual reality and its effect on older adults emotional wellbeing will be expanded further to other senior communities across the US.


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